The apartment is very modern and sleek. Every surface shines and I feel like I’m living on one of Kubrick’s movie sets. Yet it is surprising to me how small the apartment is. I normally think of celebrities as having vast open spaces with exceptionally high ceilings. I think this might be because they want to be able to throw parties with a significant number of people, but also when they are alone they want to see how alone they really to contrast how much they are never alone when they are anywhere but home. This is, of course, besides the obvious that wealth must take up a great deal of unnecessary space. Yet, the people with whom I am staying, despite their wealth and celebrity, live in only four or five small rooms that are traveled in less than a moments time. I am never lost in this apartment.
She is a genuinely delightful woman. She laughs with enthusiasm and asks questions in such a way that makes the listener feel special and almost chosen. When she looks at you, she really looks at you in a way that is both demanding and giving. She also matches her apartment. She is small, sleek, shiny and very modern. Her long blond hair follows her out of the room like a standard. She always moves quickly, but in non-specific circular ways as if she too isn’t sure where she’s going but is determined to be delighted about where ever she ends up. I love her and I am jealous of her and I’m afraid of her.
He is quiet and stubborn and more than a little off putting. He never smiles with his eyes unless he is being a little bit cruel. He seems to disappear into the apartment and yet he also takes up too much space in it all the time. She loves him, I can see that, but she also is annoyed by him. She tries to laugh it off and appear to have a good humor about it, but that might be just for me. I wonder how much of what she does is for me. He doesn’t like me and says as much. He is a short man with thick fingers and smells like lavender in a sickly kind of way. He always looks sticky. Not that he’s sweating, but somehow he looks like fly paper or a dried spot of honey on a counter.
My reasons for being here are a little romantic. She is to make me up for an awards show that she and I will be attending together. He isn’t coming and rolls his eyes with purpose every time she brings up how much fun we’ll be having. He offers me a drink and when I decline he pours me one anyway and tells me to take my medicine. She smiles and shrugs and takes the glass he offers her after he has given me mine. Might as well make a party of it, she clinks. He goes somewhere else.
I show her the dress I’ve bought and tell her that it was expensive and that I bought it with my own money. She holds it and makes a face before throwing it away and tells me I’ve been had. Not only that, but I’ll be in pictures with her and she wouldn’t be seen dead next to that dress. She laughs in a way that makes me feel like everyone else ever has loved her for this, but I don’t. I regret this occasion now, but I can’t complain. There isn’t time, she says. But, you can wear one of mine. And she opens a wall that turns out to be a closet where she has some items. I try to tell her that there is no way that anything she owns would fit me. She looks at me as if I’m crazy but doesn’t make any reply. She throws at me an item and tells me to try it on then runs out of the room.
It item is a bra. It’s a very fun bra that looks like something a young pop singer might wear on stage. It’s sexy and geometric and is fun. But it also isn’t a dress and it isn’t much and it doesn’t fit. I hear her yell from the living room demanding a fashion show. I look in the mirror. So much skin is showing. Not only that, but my skin is red and blistered from a sunburn. I can see where it is cancerous and full of puss. My skin is a horrific landscape and I’m being asked to parade it around this sleek place in another woman’s clothes. I yell back that I can’t. It doesn’t fit.
She comes back and looks into her closet again and sees nothing that will suit. Then, an idea. She turns to him and asks:
Why don’t we check the old rooms?
He looks unhappy at the prospect, but there is something new about him now. This is a serious matter and he takes it seriously.
Are you sure?
She studies me for a moment, but I don’t know what she’s looking for.
She leads me to another wall and pushes it open. Beyond is another room that is so different in style, in age, in area, in place, in time that I wonder if it isn’t a different world. They move past me into these rooms and I am assured that this is, in fact, the rest of the house. They prefer to live in the “new rooms” and never enter these unless they have to. The “old rooms” are many and pour into each other like infinity mirrors. They remind me of the rooms that Ms. Havisham takes up in Great Expectations. They are old, covered in dust, and look like rooms from movies about France. Nothing is painted and the wood is gray and dry as if having been left in the sun.
She appears with a dress that looks like it might fit, but immediately says it doesn’t compliment me at all and takes it away again. She looks distressed. We’re going to be late, she says. Why do you look the way you do? I don’t have an answer for that. I tell her only that I don’t have to go. It isn’t my award and I don’t have to be there. She tells me that of course I have to be there, she just wishes there was more time. I wonder how much time she could need and that it wouldn’t be enough. I long for my own dress, but the way to the “new rooms” is gone. She too has disappeared. I won’t find her now, he tells me. I’ve disappointed her and she’s run away. She does that when she doesn’t want to deal with something. He was sure that was what she was going to do when she wanted to check these rooms. I tell him I want to go home.
It’s too late for that. He says. You might as well find a room you like and stay here.
I laugh at the joke and he smiles in appreciation. There is a kind of weight lifted off of me now that I don’t have to go and perform and be perfect for anyone. I ask if I can explore, because these rooms are more interesting and more beautiful than the new rooms. Of course, he says.
And they are more beautiful. Light pours in from everywhere and dust motes dance in it on delicate winds. There are interior gardens and old furniture and quiet corners. I see her again, she sits at a desk doing paperwork she forgot and has now remembered now that there is something else she doesn’t want to do. She sees me. There are dresses in the back room. I’m sure one of them will work. And I feel compelled to seek out that room even though I don’t want to. First, she says, find me a key to the wardrobe. I’ve mislaid it. I can’t imagine where it would be.
So, I begin opening drawers and looking for a key for a wardrobe that may or may not have a dress I don’t want so that I can go to a place I don’t want to go with a person who doesn’t want to bring me.
In a desk, in breezy hall between French doors that open onto a garden full of late summer plants and flowers, I find a drawer full of keys. They are all neatly labeled and painted different colors. They are also all different shapes and sizes. No key is alike. I look at the tags to see if one matches what she might want. But they don’t have functions or places on them, they have names.
He enters. He sees the keys in my hand.
And I know they are going to kill me and one of these keys has my name; and that key will lock the place where my body will go when I am no longer in it.