The real life of the party is where absolutely nobody fucking cares just how lame they are potentially being. They don’t fucking care if they’re playing the most overplayed song of the summer, because it’s fucking good, and they’re jumping on the bed and spilling beers and cotton candy martinis. They’re wearing sunglasses inside, and the only politics that matter are of positivity and life and freedom. It’s the side of drug culture where nobody is using without friends looking out for them, and the music is amping up the experience, and it feels like the party is going to go on forever, and you feel really and truly young, for once not terrified of the future or the present or resenting the past.
And, in the morning—where the clock reads 1 pm and it’s daylight, afternoon to the normal—you want everything and have nothing. You know everything in your head is unoriginal and you want to delete everything you write and melodramatically tear apart or burn your journals.
Headphones were yanked away, and the world crumbled into the sounds of tinnitus from the grandiose world of crashing possibilities.
“Okay, great American author, we have to talk. How’ve ya been? How’s school? Makin’ fraynds?”
Clark looked up at his PA. She was young, brunette, gorgeous, and five years older than he was. Completely perfect. Exactly what he had asked for (demanded).
“You’re back from vacation,” he said.
“Oh, what’s getting back early from a free visit at a friend’s Spanish villa because your mole on the inside sends the call ‘Creo que Señor Clark se está convirtiendo en depresión suicida,’” she said. “He only wanted to get into my lacy white panties anyway.”
Clark looked away, imagining that his glasses covered the blush on his cheeks.
“It’s nice to see you, Elisabeth,” he managed.
“Thanks boy-o. Now, enough bullshit. You know I’m here for you. How have things been.” Matter-of-fact was the first stage of dealing with his problems. That was good—she only got to coddling and comforting if things were really bad.
“Fine,” he answered.
“Great. Universal code word for ‘not fine.’ Which I knew coming in. So, you sit here and try to preserve what’s left of your hearing and I’m gonna go check your medicines and the rest, cool? Cool.” She never waited to hear if it was cool before confirming it was cool. If he ever wrote a woman like her into a story, she wouldn’t seem real. She would be some down-to-earth version of a MPDG that fixed the hero up by being filled with sense instead of whimsy, but dumbing the whole person down to his being in love with her. She would be endless fuel for a never-dying flame of self-loathing of being so above him, being so universally better, if she didn’t somehow make him feel like he was worth the effort she put into keeping his life and work on track. That was the miracle—turning the manic-ly depressive teenage genius into a consistent success.
He followed behind her, floating around like a nervous kid on career shadowing day while she looked through his medicine cabinet to count the poisons that kept him in line and other things to counteract the side effect and symptoms of the main medicines.
“So, Clark, have you been doing school?” she called. She was like Lois Lane meets Ellen Page meets a Rashida Jones character.
“I-I’m behind, but I’ve been doing it.”
“Yep. Cool. Great.” She spoke as she continued to check other things. Routine gave a structured framework that helped him not get too bad before help could intervene, and daily hygiene rituals provided checkpoints to help Elisabeth tell how things were when she was away.
“Y-you didn’t have to hurry back,” he said.
“I wanted to,” she answered, and it sounded like one of those things that’s a lie and not a lie at once. “B-t-dubs, since this kind of thing is cool to me, I saw your books at the airports I went through. More the American ones than the Spanish one, but the first one was translated and still shelved with the bestsellers. So. Y’know. It was pretty coo.”
Clark laughed unnecessarily at the pronunciation of “cool,” like he did every time she approached positive news this way. “Yeah, pretty cool,” he returned, his voice cracking on the last syllable.
“Okey dokey. So we just need to check the fridge and the cards and boring things like that and I’m done with the more handler-y portion of my catch-up. You want to mention anything yet about how you were? I tried not to read what you were writing when I walked up, but a tiny bit was unavoidable.”
“Was it good?” he asked.
“It was certainly in a genre—one where ‘good’ has less of an impact than ‘coherently stylish,’ which that was. I would have to be in the right kind of mood to read it and get what I was supposed to out of it. I think you should go for it, and then your agent and I will find the right editor to throw it at, and then we will, and the success will commence.”
“Okay,” he answered, still following behind at half a room’s distance. “Do you think I’m a good writer?”
“Yeah,” she answered. “You’d have to be to afford an apartment and assistant at seventeen.”
“Most seventeen year olds live with their parents.”
“In America. It’s amazing how young kids move out in other countries. I still can’t afford an apartment this nice, and that was the entire plan with going to college and mumblecough grad school.”
“You could live here. With me.”
“Nah, kid,” she said, walking towards a door close to his left. “People need to go home from their jobs. It’s important. Helps us get out of things that weigh us down.”
“I should try that…” he mumbled, but she was already in the other room.