From Paint It Black
concerning the aftermath of a suicide in 1980 punk rock LA.
Josie Tyrell: art model
Pen Valadez: rock journalist
Lola Lola: art rock diva
Nick Nitro: punk guitarist, Josie’s ex.
Chapter 7: “Club Rat”
Pen found a parking place under the loading bay of the nut warehouse. They hurried along in the dark, careful not to get their heels caught in the spaces between the paving blocks that dated from the turn of the century. The road stank of garbage from the produce market on San Pedro. At the Club Rat’s tiny cash booth, the hatchetfaced ticket man eyed them foxily, Josie, heavyeyed with exhaustion in her yellow coat, Pen blacklipped and assertive in her purple vinyl and handmade Iggy fan shirt. He wanted to see their IDs, then insisted on the ten bucks cover. Pen pushed in beside Josie, cigarette poised between patent leather lips. “Don’t be an asshole. I’m with Puke. Pen Valadez, I’m on the list fuckhead.” She smoked her Camel straight like a con, half hiding it in her hand. She blew smoke in his face.
Ticketman looked down the list. “Have your friend give us a kiss and we’ll let you both in.”
“Fuck yourself, dickhead,” Pen said, burning a hole in the formica with her cigarette.
But Josie leaned in and kissed him. She was a girl with a dead boyfriend, what good were her kisses now, he could have them, poisoned as they were.
He stamped their hands with a face of a boy who’d just eaten the head off an Easter bunny, let them pass through the black curtain, into the dark and the noise. It was just end of the Weak Nellies set. Firelimit punkers flung themselves around in the mosh pit–more and more skinheads, they were taking over the scene, even for an art band like Lola Lola. Somebody already had a bloody nose. The old floor groaned beneath the weight of the crowd. Little else had changed. She hadn’t been here since she broke up with Nick Nitro. His band, the Nitrogenics, played the Rat. She looked around, praying that at least that encounter would be spared her.
The blackpainted woodwork and tinsel still yearned for arson, and tiny, sweating waitresses in corsets and heels pushed their way through mass, trays held high over their tall sculpted hair. The drag bartender glanced at Josie’s ID and flicked it back across the battered bar. No scorn like the scorn of an aging queen for a pretty girl with a crap fake DL. Pen bought them tequilas and beer backs, began edging a place for them at the bar, first resting her drink, then an elbow, finally leaning in, turning sideways for Josie. Josie knocked back her tequila and set it on the bar, touched her lips to the back of her hand.
She was glad she’d come. Nothing here reminded her of Michael. He wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like the Rat. Not even dead, she thought, drinking her beer. He’d hated crowds, never liked punk. He couldn’t handle the nakedness of the rage–his own was so well-camouflaged, so sophisticated and finely tuned, he could never see the similarity between himself and Donnie Draino screaming into a mike.
She shrugged off her coat in the bathhouse humidity. Her slight shoulders gleamed under a thin tank top, she looked both glamorous and implausible in a child’s pleated skirt worn over torn tights and a pair of red rubber cowboy boots. At the edges of her visual field, she could see the shapes of male faces turning toward her. Even now, when she was transparent as wet paper. She was so tired of herself. She felt irritated, restless, wolfish somehow. She remembered the first time she came here, how impressed she’d been, thinking how cool it all was, when it was just sweaty and crowded and deafening. She ordered another tequila.
“Make it two,” Pen said.
They held up their shots and grimly touched glasses. Pen’s heavily rimmed eyes regarded her briefly, then knew enough to look away. Pen Valadez, the very first person she’d met in LA. She’d just come down with Luanne to see some guy her sister had met at the stock car races, and decided she wasn’t going back to Bakersfield. They’d picked a kid up hitching, a rockabilly goth who said he was an art student, it sounded so cool. They dropped him at Otis, and Josie decided to grab her bag too. Some kids sitting on the steps told her about the house on Carondelet, to look for the rubber tree in the front yard. She’d found it easily, dark shingled, deep porched, the door unlocked, the downstairs stinking of garbage and cats and stale beer. And upstairs, this purple haired Latina taking a leak with the bathroom door open, panties around her ankles, brushing her teeth while she peed. “You looking for the room?” It was just an oversized closet, but it was only $75 a month, and it wasn’t Bakersfield.
Pen started her modeling, took her to the clubs, introduced her around, got her going, clued her in, how to get films and sell stuff to the shops. She’d always been on Josie’s side. Until she fell in love with Michael. They hated each other from first to last, Pen never had a good thing to say about him. And yet held her hand at the Coroner’s, and never saying a word, though she’d predicted disaster from the start. She kept her company, fed her, slept on the couch in the house to which she’d never been invited. Bullied her, made her live. He’s going to be dead a long time, Josie. You might as well get off the fucking couch.
Pen leaned against the bar, nodding to the music, the heel of her boot tucked in behind the bar rail, torn fishnets under the little vinyl skirt. “Did you hear, they just got a deal with Rhino.”
Josie noticed the backs of Pen’s hands. They were already wrinkled. Time streaming through them, all of them, like yarn. Her, and Pen, the bartender, the hatchet faced man at the door. She could not imagine living through another week, and there was another one after that. A factory of days and weeks and years, and for what, when you knew how the story turned out, what the product was at the end. She wouldn’t mind if the whole damn place went up in flames right this second. All of them immolated together, their ashes mingling in the smoldering aftermath. What if this ceiling fell in exactly two minutes from now, crushing them all like those layered tortas Michael used to make.
She looked around the club, the boys in the mosh pit, the waitresses in their corsets and tutus, Donnie Draino spewing beer from the stage. How would it be to die, right here, right now, with all these people? Would it be better or worse than to die alone in a motel room in 29 Palms? The boy in the pompadour, the girl in the white plastic trench coat. The ceiling coming in, crushing them all like cockroaches. The screaming, the weight on top of you, too heavy to take a breath, and then it would be over. Save her the problem of having to breathe, thousands of breaths a day. Every person, every cow, every dying dog, every one on the planet, breathing this same tired old air. She wanted it all to stop.
Finally, the Nellies took their break, and Josie was surprised that nothing had happened, no earthquake, no fire. She realized she was disappointed.
Paul and Shirley K. were pushing their way through the crowd, Paul so pale he was almost albino, he practically glowed in the dim light of the Rat. Shirley’s glossy Japanese hair caught the lights with its intricate geometric wedges edged in blue. They both kissed her, Shirley touching Josie’s dank locks with a professional hand, arranging her hairline. Pen was right to have dragged her out, at home she just sank to the bottom. The Rat was loud and crowded and distracting enough, she could simply be.
“Oi.” A boy in a Sex Pistols t-shirt, the sleeves safety-pinned, his teeth bunched in a lopsided smile, pushed in next to her, ordered a pint of Newcastle and introduced himself as something or other, from Leeds in England. It was good to meet someone new. Someone who didn’t know what had happened, someone to whom it was just another Thursday night. It seemed Leeds was friends with the bass player for Lola Lola. He just moved here, worked at a print shop in Hollywood. His accent was so thick she could barely understand him. It was just as well, she didn’t really want to understand anybody. It was easier to nod and drink her beer. How well did anybody know anybody anyway. That hyperintellectual Harvardette.
“Bet you’re an actress,” the boy from Leeds said.
“Waitress.” She turned to the bar, signalled for a third tequila. She didn’t like people who tried to impress you by fluffing up who they were. When she said actress or model, they got the wrong idea entirely, that she had ambitions, that she thought she was going to end up on a TV show. She didn’t care about any of crap. That was her edge, her secret weapon. She didn’t give a shit. If you didn’t have anything truly great to offer, something truly amazing, then you should just shut the fuck up. Unless you were Michael Faraday, for instance. She raised the pale liquid in a mock toast, slugged it down.
“You should be a model,” the boy said. “I know some people filming videos, you might could do that.”
She might could, but it only paid twenty-five dollars a day, she made more in two hours at City College just standing still. But she didn’t say so, he was trying to be nice. “So what’s Leeds like?”
“Like LA without palm trees,” he said.
She laughed. It was a surprise, that she still could. She wouldn’t have thought she could even rouse the shadow of a chuckle. She liked the way he talked, he said f instead of th. Wifout. Like a little kid. They watched the roadies set up for Lola Lola, Props and instruments, a giant rubber sex doll. “See the bloke wif the green stripe in ‘is hair?” Leeds said in her ear, pointing at a skinny boy in black eyeliner, a ruffled shirt. “He follows her everywhere, says she put a spell over ‘im. All over the world. They’ll be in Japan and that little wanker’ll be there.”
A desperate fan. Just like John Lennon. Josie wondered if Meredith had fans like that. Followers. If she fucked any of them. Did Meredith Loewy even have a sex life? That cold beauty, a woman like that, she must still get offers, even at her age. She wondered what kind of man Meredith would pick for herself. She pictured a dark man, in a dark suit with a very white shirt, putting a fur coat around her shoulders for her, saying something quiet and witty. But she’d picked Cal, who wasn’t anything like that.
The lights went down and the band took the stage, settled into their places, began the opening number, slow and spooky. They were joined by an enigmatic figure in eyemakeup like a mask, in Raggedy Ann tights and red yarn wig, dildoes strapped to her skirt like tools from a carpenter’s belt. Lola Lola had been thrown out of East Germany for obscenity and incorrigibility. Josie was suddenly glad she came, shot a grateful look to Pen, who gave her a shove. Told you so. It was good, to be somewhere that didn’t remind her of Michael.
The singer snarled and crooned over the heads of the crowd, weaving her spells, her black magic curses, pumping the dildo that hung in front of her short puffy skirt, that fabulous growling voice, a whisper, then a huge burst of operatic sound. They were all a body now, the crowd, and Josie was part of it. She had forgotten about this, the narcotic of the crowd. This is why you came to hear music. To stop being yourself, let that thing that you supposedly were go, and just be part of a hundred headed mob, mesmerized by a singer with big smeary red lips, hypnotized by her spooky chant. Michael hated this, it was the worst thing he could imagine, disappearing into the mass–he didn’t know how to submerge himself, he was the puzzle piece that fit no where. Pen was right, this was the right place for her tonight. No one. Nothing. The wanker with the green hair lurched and jumped as if he were being electrocuted.
Lola Lola sang the song ‘Heard You Laughing’ which Josie knew was for Ferdi Obst. They said Lola had been the one to find him, in her dressing room after the show, with the needle still in his arm. Josie wanted to meet her, she felt Lola Lola would understand about Michael, things she had told no one, like day they’d found the dog, the stupid things you say in the rain that will never be washed away. Lola would not blame her, Lola would know just how bad it could get with someone you loved more than life.
The boy with the green streak in his hair was screaming, trying to jump onstage. Lola Lola kicked him down with her pointy lace-up boot as she patrolled the lip of the stage. Josie wondered what it would be like to be a star like that, arousing strangers in their deepest fantasies, fans trying to scramble onstage just to touch her, how intense it all was, they just wanted to be near, worship her, and the darkness of that. John had settled down, that was his problem, people knew where to find him. Lola Lola wasn’t making that mistake, she’d been touring for years, living nowhere, like those birds born with no legs, who flew until they died, sleeping on the wind. It occurred to her that Lola Lola was a lot like Meredith Loewy, only with more drugs and shittier hotels and less practicing.
“There’s a party after the show,” Leeds yelled. “Why don’t you come. Your friends too.” He handed her a scrap of Xeroxed instructions, somewhere on Cahuenga in Hollywood. That would be good, the party would go all night, she wouldn’t have to be home until sunup. It was easier to sleep in the daytime. And she might meet Lola Lola. Maybe the singer would ask Josie to go on the road with her, she could do Lola’s laundry, buy her drugs,and never, ever come back.
They piled into the red Impala, Josie and Leeds and Paul and Shirley the back, and in front, Shirley’s friend Ikuko and a guy Pen picked up at the Rat, a skinny caved-chest guy with a little goatee like Maynard G. Krebs, who worked for Tree People, teaching kids about nature. They stopped to pick up some voddy and beer and drove up to Hollywood, past the lit-up pancake stack of Capitol Records, and off at Cahuenga. “Have you met her?” Ikuko asked from Maynard’s lap, her head crouched under the low roof.
“She’s fucking insane,” Leeds said. “But not totally. Like an act, but under the act it’s real. You’ll see. That’s it, coming up. Start looking for somewhere to park.”
It was an old Deco building right on Cahuenga, Josie had never noticed it before. She expected a fleabag, going in, if the moldering lobby and the shuddering elevator were any indication of things to come, but the elevator opened right into the penthouse apartment, elegant in that Sunset Boulevard haunted way. It was pretty trashed out, had obviously seen many such parties–fine in low light, but depressing in daytime, cigarette burns on the furniture, the carpet filthy. But it had once really been something, back in the day. Pillows and bolsters floated like rafts on the big carpet, and empty bottles already crowded the tables. An enormous vase of gargantuan paper roses stood under a pink light.. People lay on the pillows playing guitars, singing Iggy: Now I wanna be your dog… The Hole had emptied itself out here, the Hollywood Towers. Everybody looking at Josie, looking and then looking away. Of course they all knew, by now. She wished she had just gone home. She cracked the voddy, took a swig.
Lola Lola wasn’t there yet.. In the kitchen, someone had filled the Sparkletts bottle with a windex blue liquid. Pen and the others filled paper cups, but Josie passed. Whatever they’d put in the windex blue wouldn’t do her any good tonight, it would take her straight to the dark place, the Bosch place, and she was doing her best to stay at least partway in the light. What she needed was booze, maybe some downers, the wine and bread of forgetting. They went out onto the rooftop, there was a spread, bean dip and crackers and wedges of cheese, the label must have splurged.
“Hey Josie,” she heard behind her, a familiar voice, unwelcome as VD.
Nick Nitro lounged with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand atop the low wall of the rooftop garden.. Nausea overwhelmed her at the sight of his nervy body, the stringy blonde hair. How had she missed him at the club? Or maybe he had skipped the gig and come straight to the party. “Hey, I heard what happened. That’s a drag. A lot of that going around.” He took a swig from the JD and screwed the cap back on. You wouldn’t want to fall down and spill your booze.
She held up her hand to ward off any attempt at false sympathy. Christ, what did Nick care about Michael. She hated the idea that they’d even lived in the same world. Pen ducked Josie’s stare, but in the end couldn’t help looking. Then she shrugged, good as confession. You could always count on Pen, if there was anything you wanted to keep private, she’d make sure it was broadcast on the AM band. You could pick it up in Hawaii. It wasn’t just that Pen had no sense that someone might want to keep her private life private, it was that she didn’t get the very idea. She’d never closed a bathroom door in her life.
“You can always crash with us at the Fuckhouse,” Nick said. “If ya get lonesome.”
If ya get lonesome. To think, she had once been that lonesome. When she’d had Michael, but didn’t. She wished someone would just put a pin in her brain and stir it around, like they did to the frogs in her high school physiology class. She tasted bile in the back of her throat. People were staring, knowing she and Nick had been an item, there was no such thing as privacy. “I’ll never be that lonesome.”
“Yeah, I believe that,” he said to Ritchie, his keyboardist, handing him the square bottle. “Josie without dick, yeah, what time is it?”
She flew at him then, but he was too fast, he ducked and then grabbed her wrist as she swung again. She struggled to get her hand free, struck him with her left.
He was laughing at her, ducking her blows. “Hey! I didn’t send ya bus fare, what’re ya hitting me for? I didn’t do shit but get you off royal.”
“Shut up, just shut the fuck up!” Hitting him until Pen dragged her off.
“Hey, Josie, it’s not Nick’s fault. Just stop it.”
She’d never deserved Michael. She didn’t know how to be with someone like that, how to treat him, how to take care of him, hope you find someone to meet your needs. Nick knew how to treat her like the garbage she was.
“No fighting. Unless it’s me,” a deep, resonant German accented voice boomed. Lola Lola made her entrance through the glass doors onto the terrace, posing in the doorway like Bette Davis in a long, red feathered coat. “Why is that girl crying?”
Nick shrugged. “Her boyfriend offed himself. Like it’s my fault.”
Josie twisted in Pen’s grip. “I hate your fucking guts.”
“Suck my cock, you do it so good.”
Lola Lola turned to Josie, her face right up close to Josie’s so she couldn’t see Nick anymore. Lola was tall, her yarn wig gone, hair sculpted in great red wings, her eyes painted, pupils dark as quarternotes. She took Josie’s hand. “What’s your name, schatze?”
The inside of her head roared with blood. “Josie.”
“Come inside, Josie. We’ve got some wonderful hashish, you like hashish? We bought it in San Francisco. Afghani. With opium. They say drugs are not the answer, but really, what is the question?”
Inside, the people around the hookah moved over so Lola could sit down, and she made room for Josie next to her. She felt tiny next to Lola, even smaller than usual, she was drunk and sad and her eyemakeup was all smeared, her nose was running. Someone handed Lola Lola a hose. Josie felt like Alice in Wonderland, she had eaten from half the mushroom, she was miniscule, and a man who looked like Frank Zappa, in pink rimmed spectacles, added shredded tobacco to the big bowl of the hookah, then tore hunks of hashish from a dark wad with his thumbnail, put it on top. They all bubbled together, Lola Lola had lungs like a Olympic swimmer. They all stopped at the same time, holding their thumbs over the mouthpieces of the various hoses. Then passed to the next person. Lola offered her hose to Josie. Around the pipe sat a girl whose hair had been cropped and dyed like a leopard, a handsome dark boy in a Bags Band t-shirt, another man in a Sonny Bono haircut. They bubbled together, sharing a breath like a chorus. Josie started coming on immediately, like an elevator going up.
Lola took the hose back, toked and passed it to her guitar player who had settled on her left. The others around the circle bubbled on their hoses. It sounded like a children’s party, straws slurping. Lola removed her coat and sprawled against the pillow, and the stink of her post-concert body was as strong as the hash. Josie bubbled again. Lola spoke quickly, still on a manic high from the gig, the rush of words when someone was done with a performance. “They tried to arrest us in Santa Barbara, you heard this?” she asked Josie. Her eyes were black from the hash or whatever else she was on. “You’ve been to Santa Barbara? They are oh so proper there. No strip searches, in Santa Barbara. When Eddie had it in his ass all the time.”
The Frank Zappa guy, nodded “Anything for you, Lola dear.”
Josie thought it was odd to be smoking something that had been up this guy’s ass. It was not just the idea of it–most drugs came that way, probably, but usually it was the ass of someone you never met, someone in Burma or La Paz. But here was this guy with the pink glasses, tall and skinny. It made her wonder what else he had up his ass. Furniture maybe, antiques, gold-leafed icons. Human smuggling, illegal aliens up his ass. It made her laugh to herself. It was good to finally be high. This was exactly what she had been looking for.
“It lends an extra thrill, don’t you think,” Lola said in her raspy German-accented English, gesturing with the hookah hose. “We’re very attracted to shit, as a race. All animals are, of course, but the human being is more complex in this. We cannot admit we love it, our mothers will punish us, we nasty children, playing with our own shit, rubbing it on the wall. But tell me, what child doesn’t play with his shit? We love it, the smell, the texture,” Lola rubbed her hands together, as if mashing some clay. “It is the element of creation, no? But it shames us. So we pretend we hate this, when we adore it. Think of the toilet, the Western toilet, you see?”
Josie lay pulverized by the opiated hash, thinking how bizarre life was, how Fellini. Michael was dead, and she was sitting here talking to Lola Lola about toilets, when she wanted to have a real conversation about dead boyfriends, about how to live. It was as if the world had been knocked off the little stand that kept it on the desk, and now it was rolling around on the floor.
Those red lips, her big singer’s gestures, calibrated for the back of the club. She was still performing. “Growing up in the East, of course, we had the Soviet model, absolutely Spartan, no good Communist should be fascinated with the individual product of the asshole. But in the West, the toilet has a viewing platform. For analysis of the health, or so we pretend. When it is a pedestal, for admiration and worship of shit.” Her lips, smeary with old lipstick, rubbery red animals squirming on her face. “Americans insist on the superior shit, consuming acres of bran cereal, the better to have big attractive ones. Did you know that all the best perfume has a little bit of shit in it?”
Josie shook her head. A little turd floating in the Chanel No. 5.
“You don’t believe me?” Her black eyes opening wide in their mask of black. “It’s well known. Any perfumer will tell you the same. We find perfume missing that little excitement if it hasn’t just a touch of shit in it. Only cheap perfume has no shit, which is why it’s so boring. The great perfumes all have it, or something that smells like it. We’re the only animal that tries not to smell like one, we obliterate our own body’s odor and then add an artificial one, the scent of a flower or a plant. And yet, in the end, it doesn’t really make it for us unless it smells like shit. I think we’d be better off if we could just sniff each other’s asses. Dogs are much more secure, don’t you think?”
Josie lay on the pillows. She couldn’t keep her head up. She’d never smoked anything as strong as this Afghani hash. She wondered why it wasn’t affecting Lola like that. They must have done some coke or speed on the way over. She thought of people sniffing each other’s asses, but it led to thoughts of dogs, she did not want to think of dogs. God damn them all.
Lola shook Josie roughly by the shoulder. “It’s good? I told you it was good. You have any cigarettes?”
“Yeah, but I’m too high to get them. They’re in my purse.”
Lola dug through Josie’s red schoolgirl purse. “Ooh, la la,” Lola said as she pulled out the pack of Gauloise and lit it with Josie’s lighter. Her father’s lighter. That waft of butane. Josie lifted her hand slow as in a dream, and Lola put the lit cigarette between her fingers, fired another herself.
“Tell me about your boyfriend,” Lola said, settling back on the pillows. “The one who dies.”
How to sum him up. She couldn’t begin, she couldn’t find words. How to describe him, it would sound like four different people. His genius, his beauty. How maddening he was, how tender. How she never thought she would ever love someone so much, hadn’t even known she had it in her. And then how fucked up it got. She was sure, of all people, Lola Lola would understand, the one person who could. “He believed in something he called the true world. A world behind this one, that shone through it, like a candle through a lampshade.”
“The true world,” Lola said. “That’s very beautiful.” Her eyes shiny black as a deafmute’s piano. Coke, Josie guessed. “How is this world?”
She thought about the true world, the times they had seen it–it was like light glinting on the surface of the river, that shimmering quality when you saw it. It wasn’t the thing itself. It was your own ability to see it. Like the nights they lay in bed listening to the mockingbirds sing. Or the time they knelt by the river, and the blue heron came walking out of the reeds. The feeling when time stopped, and you could stay there forever. “You see the beauty inside everything. It doesn’t last long–it’s either gone in a minute, you just caught it, or else maybe it’s something so big that you normally can’t get your head around it. Like the fog in your head clears out. The world stops being a puppet show and you see the real thing. It’s probably like that all the time, but you just can’t see it, except for those little glimpses.”
“A beautiful man,” Lola said, posing with her cigarette like Dietrich. “I wished I could have met.”
Josie dragged on her cigarette to ease her aching lungs, wiped at her face with the back of her hand. “But he forgot how. He stopped being able to do it.”
She smelled burning cloth and saw Lola, burning holes in her stockings with the tip of her cigarette, holding the fabric out from the skin and piercing it with the cherry. The cloth stank as it burned. “And you? Do you believe in this true world?”
Josie gazed up at the ceiling with its intricate plasterwork, interlinking motifs of deer and palm fronds around what must have been a chandelier, but now was just a lightbulb in a red paper shade. Did she still believe in a true world? She didn’t know what she believed in. She didn’t have the energy to believe in very much. “I think he took it with him.”
“No. You must believe,” Lola said, propping herself on one elbow. She surprised Josie with her seriousness, the way she said it, not playing to the balcony, not talking to hear the grandeur of her own voice. “Don’t let them take it away. Promise me.” Josie could see the strip that held Lola’s false eyelashes on, her face was so close to hers. Her breath smelled of vodka.
How could she promise? The true world was a million light years gone. She turned her head to exhale, so she wasn’t blowing the smoke into Lola’s face. “Why?”
Lola watched her finger trace the design on the dark indian print of the pillow, flowers connected by vines. “Where I grew up, there was no such thing as a true world. Only the state and what was good for the state. You come to treasure that moment of true beauty, where the world is more than this. It must still be there. It must be.” And Josie knew Lola wasn’t thinking of Michael, but of her own boyfriend, Ferdi Obst, in her dressing room in Paris.
Now Lola Lola was looking at her with those shining black eyes in the mask of black, like someone peering out from a cave. Josie pressed her head onto her hard knees, her pale legs in the child’s plaid skirt, the red cowboy boots. Trying not to remember her legs around Nick as he fucked her against the wall, while Michael sat at home staring at Bosch. She wished she could say she couldn’t remember, could blank it all out, but she always remembered everything. It was in the body. Her body always remembered. Michael turning away from her. He was all she ever wanted. But if she couldn’t have him, she knew someone who would take her, no questions asked. Rolling around in shit, yes, to punish Michael for pushing her away. And to punish herself, for not being good enough for him, smart enough, interesting enough. Yes. She knew her level and could sink to it any time. Revert to type. She had no right to even speak about the true world. She would stink it up even by thinking about it. There had been a true world, but the candle had gone out, and all she had left was a Chinese lampshade, made in TJ.