After leaving Jill’s boutique I felt an optimistic spring in my step. Things were starting to look up. Granted, I hadn’t been offered any gigs, but I had my stage look - it was a slavish start, but productive. I relinquished my stereotypes and bought two pairs of leather pants, along with the blouses, a pair of boots, and a couple of sheer scarves. The belts I couldn’t bring myself to buy – they were too partial to heavy metal. I was going against my grain as it was with this resolve of provocative attire. But with Frank forcing the issue down my throat, and Jill convincing me that it was my look, I just went with it. My assets were covered with little imagination left to arouse. This was L.A. - it was time to get real.
In the end I developed a look that was biker-babe meets earth-child.
Telling Jill that I could start at her shop that coming Friday, gave me an underpinning to look forward to - as futile as it was. I was almost certain working there would be boring. But Jill seemed cool.
Having some money left from the clothes allowance, I decided to treat myself with a book or some new music.
The mild day felt cleansing. Most of my tension from the night before had vanquished. Turning onto West Santa Monica Boulevard I strolled casually, taking in the increased traffic, and the seemingly endless stretch of road. A dull ache still lingered in the back of my head, reminding me of the foolish attempt at drowning my fury with liquor.
The road had definite California appeal with everything bleached, and palm trees framing the concrete. Passing various amenities, a car dealership, drug store, several small strip malls, luck would have it that a bookstore/café mingled with this provincial norm. The tiny spot had a college vibe with students draping the place: cuddled into café booths; engrossed in recent literary purchases, and laughing amongst themselves. My prospects were the back with the books.
Once in non-fiction I poked through the new releases. One in particular caught my eye. The cover was deep green, centered by a blurred photo of a darkened forest. Captioned below was the title “Enchanted.” The ominous look appealed to me - the title very reminiscent of a song I wrote. Sitting on the floor I made for the synopsis.
“That’s a good book,” a guy’s voice chimed from above.
Craning upward, the source of the interlude was leaning over my shoulder – tall, cargos and an Oxford. He had black untamed hair, spiking to the right, and emerald green eyes.
He was smiling upon me.
My tone was casual. “Is it?”
He nodded, continuing with a tilted grin.
“So you recommend that I buy it, then?” Turning the novel over so that the cover faced up, my hand caressed the smooth surface.
He knelt closer to me.
“I do.” The lopsided smirk was interesting. “Do you know what it’s about?”
In total disbelief that this near perfect guy had even the slightest bit of interest in me, made me suspicious. I casually leaned away from him.
“I was just about to read the back, so no.”
His face lit. “It’s about life through the eyes of a thirteen year-old prodigy – very morose, but eye-opening.”
My nose caught the sweet scent of his wafting cologne. I recognized it - Polo.
“Intriguing – I’m sold.” I stood to thank him.
He rose with me. We faced each other - me preoccupied, him beguiled.
“So, do you work here, or something?” Feeling compelled to ask the obvious, he stood before me, unwavering.
“No, this is just my favorite section.” A coy shimmer glided over his face. “My name’s Corey.”
I looked around suspicious of friends he might’ve had leering behind bookshelves, watching their cruel bet play out: To see if I was naive enough to actually believe that he was into me. But I saw no one.
“Yari,” my tone was mildly standoffish.
I wondered the time it would take for him to realize I was not the prima-donna type that he was presupposed to be attracted to.
He noted my hesitation.“Do you go to school around here?” Continuing to be polite, seemingly determined to prove me wrong about my misgivings.
“Uh, no,” I said with a note of oncoming irritation. “Thanks for the tip.” Turning to leave, the yuppie was persistent, hell-bent in keeping me.
“I go to Lee Strasberg.”
Theatre collage? I knew of the school. He didn’t come off as the artsy type with his bland wardrobe.
I offered my attention.
“Really?” my tone was asserting rather than inquiring. “What’re you studying?” The book was twirling in my fingers casually as it hung before me.
“Screen writing and, directing.” Corey’s posture was relaxed as I lingered by.
My thoughts returned to suspicion, naturally, with this insight into his outlook: Great - he wants to use me as a guinea pig for research on a working drama - The Street Girl Named Desire. The most that Blanche DuBois and I had in common was that we were both delusional. Scarlett O’Hara, I would never try to be. My virtues were far from being a gentile Southern belle. My personality traits comprised of irrational neurosis, cynicism, inability to trust, and fanciful dreaming. Qualities that would most definitely curl his manicured toes.
“Cool,” I offered in response to his major.
He shifted his weight nervously. Corey’s eyes turned away from me as mine bore into his thoughts, trying to assess him.
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” he asked.
Maybe I was reading way too deep into his intentions. He was good looking, as if that has any relevance. I considered putting my trust issues aside for the moment. Besides, I didn’t have much else to do that afternoon.
“Sure, why not.”
Paying for the book while Corey waited at a table in the café, I speculated even further into why he would be interested in me. Clearly I wasn’t his type. And he, mine for that matter. California had shown me some uncustomary social peculiarities, maybe this was another.
My smiling eyes met his as I sat across from him at the small stone table.
“You’re name is very unique. What nationality are you?” he started.
“I’m an eclectic mix of international diversity.” I chuckled. “My mother was half Brazilian, hence the name. And the rest of the melting pot is Irish, Italian, German, and everything else you can imagine.”
Gazing over his clothes again, I noticed they weren’t perfectly pressed like I’d expect of a preppy. They were casually wrinkled like he’d worn them a previous day, but then decided it was clean enough to wear for another.
He lifted both his arms to rest on the table. A Rolex watch clinked against the hard surface. He was definitely out of my league.
“How about you?” guessing that he was probably English by his proper disposition, I waited to be proved correct.
His beautiful smile never faltered, “Same as you, a little bit of this – a little bit of that, but mostly French.”
So, I was close.
A bubbly waitress looking like a local college student herself came by to take our order. She seemed to be the more likely choice to be sitting in my chair with her perfect beauty and trendy look. Her hair was golden-blonde, pulled back into a banana clip with bologna curls streaming her back. She had large blue eyes outlined with matching blue eye-shadow and mascara. Her petite frame was fitted with a short tennis skirt, poking underneath a café smock.
She made me sick.
If she wasn’t so damn friendly and nonjudgmental of me and Corey’s unusual pairing, I would’ve given her nothing but attitude. I waited for Corey to check out her legs, or become mesmerized by her pretty face, but he focused his attention exclusively on me. A gentle smile played about his mouth.
Expecting him to order a fancy coffee decked out with gourmet ingredients, Corey surprised me again, and requested a regular coffee with cream and sugar, exactly how I took java. This guy was an anomaly.
The beauty queen looked to me for my order.
“I’ll have the same.”
Corey’s eyes never left my face. His smile thickened when hearing my request.
“So - do you want to write the next Laurence of Arabia?” It wasn’t original, but I didn’t know what else to say.
He laughed out-loud. The boyish pitch was adorable. Corey had a smooth voice that was eloquent and attractive.
“No, I like to write more unconventional scripts. Independent films are what I favor. I’d like to direct them one day, too.”
My interest peaked. I stared at him with attention, like he was someone altogether different. He noticed.
“Are you a fan of independent films?” The green in his gems was almost aqua in hue – bright and captivating – they seemed to sparkle more intensely with this question. Ironically enough, they were almost identical to my eye shade.
The extent of my independent film history was embarrassing - B-horror movies. I used to watch them with Brad. He was a huge fan of the tacky genre. Eventually I got used to their poor quality, almost liking the back-alley editing and unnatural dialogue. I think I took to the movies because I enjoyed how excited Brad would get when watching them. His favorites were Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead.
“I’m not really familiar with that style of film.” I lied, too embarrassed to admit the my involvement. Telling him that all I knew of indie films were shitty horrors might either offend him, or make him lose respect for me.
His tone was enthusiastic. “My goal is to reinvent the way independent films are perceived. They’re not respected enough, or given enough credit.”
My mouth dropped. I hoped that he didn’t misinterpret my reaction as indifference. On the contrary - Corey’s visionary words hit a chord; they were right on cue with my own passion for independent music. I knew then that I was completely wrong about this guy, having unfairly labeled him from the word go. He was a starving artist in love with his work, desperate to change industry standards like me. Incredibly, this was all trapped within that rich kid exterior.
“I know it’s an acquired taste,” he misinterpreted my silence, as I feared.
“Oh, no - I’m interested. Please, tell me more.” I leaned over the table to show my intrigue.
A husky laugh broke through his keen grin. He colored. “Indie films aren’t a new concept - they’re just low budget productions with limited advertising. But he tight funds opens up creative challenges, giving more control to the director to focus on the value of the story and character development, rather than investing money in big-name actors and exotic locations. The style transcends from the days of amateur filming.”
Able to relate to Corey on this point with my music was so refreshing. Finally someone shared in my angle. I didn’t want big record companies signing me only to turn me into whatever the hell they sought. My songs and appearance were too significant. I would fight tooth and nail if I had to in order to maintain the artistic integrity of who I was. And having that determination and desire to be a respected musician, was what it was all about. I had a feeling Corey would agree.
He paused, looking at me curiously, seemingly waiting for a response to his interpretation. I was awed by him, not realizing the lull. Corey blew me away with the unexpected similarity in our goals. I got lost in the realization that there was actually someone out there in the world – like me.
Dazedly, I sputtered into the conversation. “I can totally relate to you.” Our green eyes locked. “I’m a singer, and I write music that isn’t mainstream, more independent - not yet fully recognized. I want to introduce to the industry a more exciting, intelligent, completely unconventional style of music.”
I watched the excitement in his face marvel.
“I’m originally from Massachusetts, actually.” I felt compelled to make note. Not sure why I was opening up to this unaccustomed guy, he was so far from who I’d come clean to. “I moved to Los Angeles recently with my manager to break into the business. I can relate to the concept of separating from the norm.”
He laughed in agreement. “You have no idea how many people at my school don’t get me. They want to hold on to the old, the traditional.” Corey paused to shake his head in disbelief. “So you write your own stuff? What inspires you?”
His eager interest into me was inebriating. I loved it. “My life is my muse, I guess you could say. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best childhood, so the songs are sort of dark-ish.” I hoped that my indistinct classification of my writing wasn’t a deflection.
The curiosity that perked the corners of his mouth told me different.
“Dark how – like Metallica dark, or The Dead Kennedy’s dark?”
I chuckled over his estimates – neither being remotely close to what I was aiming for. “Uh, probably more like Sinead O’Connor dark.”
Insight flooded his face. He offered a baleful smile. “So you’re an angry singer.”
My gaze dropped over this precise assessment.
The more I chatted with Corey, the more he frightened me with his ostensible burrowing into my soul. How could this stranger read me so well? I hated it. Unintentionally I encouraged it, by not bringing halt to this Q&A session.
I guess I was green when it came to the psychology of the real world. My exposure to people was limited to what I met in New York, and they were all insane. Was California harboring a more realistic paradigm of personalities that I needed to explore? I felt so stupid – so ignorant to think that I could have a comparable conversation with a college student. What did I know about life besides nothing?
I pulled my eyes back to meet his emerald gaze, “Something like that.” I felt myself pulling away from him. My voice was distant, crushed by Corey unearthing my scathing flaws. Maybe I shouldn’t have given-up so much of myself.
He sensed my apprehension. “I’d like to hear you sing? Do you have any shows lined up?”
Ok, that was enough.
Corey was amiable, clean cut. The beauty of his pristine skin, black hair, willing eyes, dark lashes, and bright smile dampened my mood. He was clearly too good for me. My kind of mess would only butcher his perfect existence. I made that mistake with the rich violinist.
I couldn’t keep with this charade. Looking down at my watch I then glanced up at him distracted, like it was time for me to go.
“Do you have to leave?” he asked, making the connection.
“I do, actually.”
Surprised by the quick change in conversation, Corey grabbed the bill that was left by the waitress. I reached in my bag for some cash. He quickly stopped me.
“I’ve got this,” he said with a soft smile.
“No, here.” I handed him a five.
Looking at the cash gratefully, Corey refused with a slender smile.
We left the café together. He held the door as I exited.
“Are you walking?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I was actually trying to get to know the area.”
“I can give you a ride. My car’s over there.” He turned slightly and pointed at a black Porsche across the street.
It amazed me at how unaware Corey seemed to be of the luxuries he possessed, acting like they were just things. Only, they cost more than my father made in a year.
The exotic car was the cherry on the cake - it deflected me even further from him. Corey was from a different realm than me.
Keeping my tone sincere I smiled favorably. “No, but thanks – I think I’m gonna see if I can find my way back to the motel. It’ll be a good memory exercise for me.” I chuckled, noticing the subtle disappointment around his eyes grow.
“Where are you staying?”
I tried to stop myself but it blurted out before I gave it any real thought. “The Clifton Motel - it’s where starving musicians go to die.” I laughed ineptly.
Kicking myself for telling him where I was living, but the words just slipped out. Not only was it almost certainly a dump compared to where he lived, which was probably a mansion in Brentwood or Beverly Hills, but I didn’t want him to visit me, if for some unlikely reason he felt compelled to do so.
The most seductive, slanted grin broke his refined face. I hated to do this.
“It was really nice to meet you. I hope that everything works out for you with the movie biz.”
A defeated air washed over him. “You, too, Yari - hope to see you around.”
My polite smile didn’t fade until I turned away from him. I felt horrible. He was such a nice guy, and I let him slip away. We had things in common. But Corey could never understand what I’d been through before we met. His precious life would on no account be able to grasp the dark complexity of all that I was. Him smiling and making the connection that I was an angry singer, like it was something sexy, was disturbing. If he only knew that it wasn’t even remotely attractive. Nothing about my past was close to being sexy.
I hated the double standards that I forced upon myself. Why couldn’t I, someone who deserved to be happy and have a beautiful guy that came from money, call me his girlfriend? Was I that insecure?
It was so unfair that I did that to myself. But it was a sad fact - I deliberately punished myself because of my fucked-up parents - because of what they did to me. I was too good for the street urchins and the bar flies at Cobra, but not good enough for the privileged status that I had always wished I was born from.
Yet, guys with money appeared to continue to taunt me. Eric and Tim were no different. I let them use me for the rebel yell that I’m certain I was only meant for.
I accepted the truth. I was white trash down to the genetic strands.
I finished that day having dinner with Frank. We ate at the diner next to the motel. He seemed to have forgotten about our fight. I didn’t see the point of holding a grudge for ego sake. The good mood that he projected was enough for me to leave well enough alone. For me though, after leaving Corey, a subtle, dismal cloud fluttered over me. I was lacking the energy to push asshole buttons.
Frank talked about the ad that he placed in the personals, requesting that only indie or alternative types come forward. Surprised that he didn’t go against my wishes and seek out hard rock musicians, I could almost feel the damper lifting.
He went on to tell me about one of his old West Coast friends offering up his basement for me and the future band to hold our jam sessions.
I clued him in on the clothes I bought - he didn’t offer much but a nod. He seemed more pleased with my part-time job. There appeared a sense of argument evasion on his end too. “Smooth on the under-the-table angle,” he said, then plunged back into his meatloaf.
The rest of the dinner was quiet. I was relieved that the night ended with peace between us.