What am I doing in the newspaper today? Did I just make a new movie? Did I tell the world about my journal, about Bobby and Jack, about Chile and the Bay Of Pigs? People would never believe that I could be interested in those things and write them down. I wrote a whole lot of other stuff that had nothing to do with politics. There was a method in my madness and I’m good at pillow talk. It’s surprising what people will divulge when their guard is down. Maybe you didn’t think I would know a word like divulge. You thought I was dumb. Well, there are a lot of things you don’t know about me. I’m a fast learner and it’s surprising what you can learn between the sheets and then use against someone when the chips are down. That sounds mean and I’m not a mean person but I’m just fed up of being treated like a piece of meat.
So, that photograph, in the New York Times, blowing along the wet street right now, that’s me with my blonde curls, in my white dress covering my generous curves. I remember my curves and so do all the men. I remember that photograph being taken as if it was yesterday. It’s the one where I’m not wearing any underwear. My dress billows up around my thighs but I manage to keep it down with both hands. It’s a good job there wasn’t anybody hiding in the grate underneath. They’d have got an eyeful for sure. I used to be her, that woman in the photograph. A Hollywood starlet who became a huge star. It’s difficult to remember, it seems so far away.
I’m confused. I see my photograph in the newspaper but I also see my reflection in a large store window in down town New York and they don’t match, not even a bit. I’m not the woman in the photo any more. In fact, I’m not a women at all. I remember that sexy, vital, alive person that I was. Men would say those things about me. Sexy. Vital. Alive. Funny that, because sometimes, I couldn’t be more dead inside.
Strange, how they saw me. They thought I was actually what it said on the tin. And maybe I was, sometimes. Or maybe that was an act. Or maybe that was just a part of me, or none at all.
Now I am getting confused, because as I walk forward to the big glass front of the New York store, I see that I am very small against the huge window, a scruffy little thing. I feel small and vulnerable, like a child. It reminds me of when I was a child. A man, a lodger in my home, lured me into his room, did things to me and told me not to tell anyone, because nobody would believe me if I did.
I could even scream if I wanted to but I wouldn’t be heard, I wouldn’t be believed or heard.
But, despite this, I told my mom and she slapped me across the face and said I was a liar.
Well, all I can say is, that man was right. I wasn’t believed. He didn’t know her at all, yet, he was able to paint everyone with the same brush like that, and come up smiling. He was completely on the nail there, very sure of himself. But how did he know I wouldn’t be believed? How do men like that know?
After that, I developed a stutter. It never really went away but it was bad for a few years after that and particularly in my early teenage years. I was able to control more as I got older. I could make it go away most times, if I tried hard enough. I am an actress you know.
But when I get nervous or anxious, it comes back. I don’t have a voice now. I can’t seem to speak.
I’m right up to the glass and staring inside. A little girl is staring right back at me. She comes out of the store, stands and stares. She doesn’t look quite so little any more, she’s about eleven, twelve and has a calmness about her that I never had. That’s a comforting trait in another person, if you’ve never had it yourself.
Something tells me she’s a good person, not like Bobby or…Jack, or the others, not like all the other John’s who used me and left.
When I say John’s, I make it sound like I’m a prostitute or something. Ha. Why is that funny? I guess it’s not.
Well, I sort of…when I’ve been with men, I’ve always meant it, somehow, even when I didn’t.
The casting couches don’t count. I needed to get something back because there was no way out.
It was kinda weird, ‘cos I knew men. After all, a man had wanted me that way when I was eight. I was always wanted in that way, even when I didn’t want to be wanted. I was desirable to men from the onset, so, like I said, there was no way out, had never been a way out, no respite.
Wait! I remember now! I’m an icon. That’s what they call me. It was nice being an icon, sometimes. I needed the world to love me but I also wanted to love back. I wanted to be a mother so badly. A mother to a girl like that one standing outside the store. She’s looking at me in such a peculiar way. There’s a woman with her now and they’re talking and still looking at me. Now the woman walks towards a car, but the girl is still standing there, staring, for the longest time.
I think I’d have been a good mother. I wouldn’t have slapped my daughter if she’d have told me some man had done something to her. Children don’t tend to lie about stuff like that. I understand the shock and horror at first, but at some point, I’d have pulled myself together and sorted it somehow, to protect my daughter and make her feel safe. I’d try to make sure it never happened again. At the least, I’d know what not to do.
Looking back, I guess my mum couldn’t handle it. Unlike some moms I’ve heard of, who might enjoy the whole thing. My mom at least had the decency to go insane. In my mind, that gives her an out. Her insanity, her guilt, shows me she cares on some basic level. So that excuses her, and yes, I’d like to think I’d be a good mother. Or at least, know what not to do.
I also think I was a good friend. People said, I was just a dumb blonde. I hated playing all those dumb blonde parts. I could say you were dumb, or the person next to me is dumb but you don’t know what’s cooking inside. How dare people make assumptions about me. I’m a little hot headed. I might be a little crazy. I might be a little insecure now and again, but who isn’t?
I’m a quiet thoughtful kind of gal these days and empty vessels make the most sound. Isn’t that what they say? My last husband taught me how to hold still with myself, how to have a little healthy introspection. Playwrights know about things. But maybe I was a dumb blonde on occasion. Who doesn’t make mistakes?
I wasn’t stupid enough to know I wasn’t being used. And I was clever enough to know, my bust could get me places, straight on the road to Hollywood. I am also smart enough to know that my biggest mistake was to confide in my own mother. I guess you could say ‘she’ and ‘him’ helped make me who I am today…among others. There’s only two ways to go when you’ve been introduced to sex too early. You either go the closed legs way or the wide open legs way. No prizes for guessing which way I went.
Some people make a mockery of nature, they twist it and eat unripe fruit, but despite everything, I always thought sex was a beautiful thing. Early experience opens you up whether you want it to or not and whether you keep it to yourself or not. A door is opened, somewhere, never to be closed again.
The skull of a new born baby is soft, malleable. You can be modelled into any shape when the clay is still soft, then the shape stays.
I shiver now. I got wet when it rained earlier. That girl is coming over. She kneels beside me and talks in a soothing voice. Then she feel around my neck. “Thought so,” she says, “I’ve seen you around here for a day or two now. You don’t belong to anyone, do you?”
I tried to talk back but some kind of strangled something came out. She laughed and a hand came out to stroke my damp fur. “We need to get you dry.” she said. Then she turned and shouted to the woman standing by the car. “Mum, you were right! She doesn’t have a collar. Can you bring the blanket?” The woman immediately went round to open the trunk, took out a pink blanket and came towards us. I was gently rubbed down with the blanket, then the girl wrapped me up in it and carried me to the car.
I may smell of wet dog right now but I feel very special. Perhaps it was my birthday today and that’s why I was splashed on the centre page of the newspaper. Some sort of anniversary, but not of my life…of my death.
I wonder, who was it I talked to about reincarnation all those years ago? Was it Joe? Or Henry? Or Frank? Or maybe one of my girlfriends? It doesn’t matter who it was, but, if they could see me now…
Once we were in the car, the girl stroked me behind my ear and said thoughtfully, “I think I’ll call you Diamond. Would you like that?” Some strangulated sound came out again, but it’s okay, I’ll work on it, like I worked on my stutter.
Her eyes widened in delight and she cuddled me close. “I love you!” she said. Oh God. Why did I never hear that before? If a puppy could cry, I would right now. I seem unable to contain my joy any longer. My tongue comes out and licks the girls face.
One animal is much like another. We’re all slaves to the flesh. Dogs hump other dogs. Hollywood stars hump other Hollywood stars. I sure as hell ain’t blonde any more. I don’t have that white dress that blew up as I stood on that vent. I didn’t think that would go off in history and be one of those, what was I talking about before? Oh yes, icons. An iconic moment in history. That world that I needed to love me, a million people, could never give me what this person is giving me now. She is giving me hope…and something else. I’m surrounded, suddenly and finally, by love. I don’t care too much how I got here. I’m just glad I did.