Pink and Black – Pandora
I was sitting at my desk in front of the screen where I had just watched a promo for a new HBO show. I was thinking about her, the girl who said, “Oh, I have no problem writing! It just pours out of me!” And I wanted to stab her in the eye. But at the same time I wanted to hold her like I did once. Later, after we were both back to our “real” lives, I went to her “literary art show” in the city and was greatly relieved to find that she really has about as much talent as an earwig. Prose poems inspired by 1970s porn, thumb tacked on the scarred walls of a Brooklyn 2nd floor walk-up do not make art. And even though I had wanted to fuck her at one time, the fact that she was clearly so delusional about her own ability somehow negated the whole thing. That and the fact she had a boyfriend who looked like Sid Vicious and who stared at me with such hatred I could smell it. She was dead to me now. But not really. And now here was her name on the screen beneath the iconic glowing HBO logo.
The story I really wanted to tell was of the week we were together, when the once beautiful but now hideous low-talent lurched into my life (the specter of her colorfully dyed asymmetrical hair and single flashy earring still fresh in my mind). We were both fellows at a summer writing workshop held upstate at a remote mountain lake retreat. The kind of place where they feed you homemade granola in hopes that you would excrete the next great American novel fueled by their whole grains. I’d even had to sneak sugar onto campus for my coffee because YOU CAN’T USE HONEY IN COFFEE. It. Just. Doesn’t. Work. I had escaped writer’s camp on day 2 under the pretense of mailing a manuscript to my editor (I know people, no one mails anything anymore, hello email and drop box, but this place was so granola they didn’t allow any internet! And zero cell service at the lodge!). So there I was slurping sweet coffee, catching up on my emails and texts on my phone and stuffing my pockets with sugar packets from the small town café where I awaited my ride back to camp, when I saw her through the café windows. Her shock of pink hair was like a neon sign saying, “I am not from this god-forsaken town!” Just then, as I was practically drooling on the window, I felt a tap on my arm. It was the lackey driver kid from writer’s camp.
“All set to head back to camp, Mr. Black?”
I absolutely despised being called Mr. Anything. So I just seethed at him while I took my last sip of coffee. He just shrugged and headed out to the street. I knew I was being an asshole, but I just wanted to sit and watch the pretty girl and drink my sugary coffee in peace. But she was gone when I looked back out the window. Eventually I stood up to follow him out of the café. They were feeding me this week and I really didn’t have anywhere else to be. The marriage was over, there were no children and she even took the cat. I paid for my coffee at the register and took a few more packets of sugar from the table by the door. I remember thinking, maybe she’ll see me getting into the van and think I am someone important.
Walking out onto the sidewalk I found Mr. Happy Driver waiting for me. The electric haired girl was nowhere in sight.
“I forgot to mention that we have to give a lift to another writer who arrived on the train today.” He said he opened the side door into the van.
“Must be some hot-shit writer to arrive a day late,” I replied irritated that I would have to share the bumpy ride back with some undoubtedly chatty writer. I was prone to car-sickness and needed to focus on the road.
As I ducked my head into the dark interior I saw her pink hair sticking up from the back seat of the van. It felt like a bolt of lightening passed through my chest. I simultaneously wondered if she’d heard my snide comment. When she looked up I saw she had on hot pink Beats headphones. Relief flooded my body. She pulled the headphones down around her neck. I realized I was staring.
“Frank Black,” I said quickly reaching my hand over the seat to reach her in the back.
“Lana del Writer,” she replied, then smiling said, “Not hot-shit, yet.”
Fuck. She’d heard me.
“So Miss Lana del Writer are you just coming up from the city…?” I asked trying to release the tension.
“I was in LA shopping my screenplay. HBO optioned it.” She replied. “I flew back to JFK on the red-eye last night and caught the train straight here. I hope I can get cell service up at the lake to find out if they bought it.” She paused, “And it’s not my real name you know.”
I laughed out loud. “Yeah, I figured.”
“But your’s isn’t your real name either is it?” she asked.
“Not exactly. My real name is Francis Buio. Buio means night in Italian. Way easier to say “Black” then all those vowels. Plus reviewers always spell it wrong. Not that they write my name much… So I re-launched myself as Frank Black.”
“Oh, I thought you were a big fan of the Pixies,” she replied.
“Aren’t you a little too young to know about them?” I half-jokingly asked. But my heart melted a little because I am a big fan of the Pixies and the fact that she got it, well, I fell in love.
“Yeah, my folks were super into them. They met at their concert. My real name is actually Rosa Doolittle.”
“Your parents named you after the first two Pixies albums?!” I spluttered. Now I was feeling old. “So that makes you…?” I was trying to do the math in my head.
“I’m 25 and just finished Grad school.”
I was now feeling sorry for myself for being 40 and for appearing old-as-fuck to this girl. But I couldn’t give up. “OK so now I’ve got to ask, where did you go to school?”
“I went to Columbia for undergrad then Iowa for grad school.”
“Jesus. Couldn’t you have just tried harder to make me feel like an absolute loser?” I mockingly pleaded.
She smiled wryly.
The van was pulling onto the grounds. I saw Rosa check her phone for a signal.
“Listen, you’re not going to get any cell signal here. But I hear that if you row out to the middle of the lake the phone might work. If you want I can row while you check your phone for a signal?” I offered with the slimmest hope she’d accept.
So began our inseparable week on the lake. I’d row us out early to the middle of the green still water. Her pink head resting on the bow, singing Pixies songs to me. We’d drink coffee from a thermos, the bottom of the boat littered with opened sugar packets.
“Where is my Mind?”
With your feet on the air
And your head on the ground
Try this trick and spin it, yeah
Your head’ll collapse
If there’s nothing in it
And then you’ll ask yourself
Where is my mind?
Where is my mind?
Where is my mind?
Way out in the water
See it swimmin’