Note: Been in a funk, couldn’t write, the horse died, Mr. Conley sent me an e-mail that gave me an idea, it’s time to start the snow up… Not necessarily in that order. Anyway, this weird one’s for Dee, who asked for one. See, Dee, you’ve the life of a queen compared ; )
Jay opened the door to the rundown apartment building, stepped into the close air inside. Smells of piss and desperation got all mixed up in the city air he’d just let in. He ran his eyes over the mailboxes on the wall, looked for signs Nico still lived there. She lived hand to mouth, was getting kicked out of places all the time. When he saw her scrawly writing on the paper insert under her apartment number, he started up the dingy stairwell. Every other bulb was still missing. Cheap-ass landlord. A crack like a gunshot got swallowed up by a woman’s scream, “Get out!” and a man bellowing something indistinguishable. Of course someone had to yell, “Shut up!” and a baby had to squall.
Jay hit the third floor and started down the hall to Nico’s place. From out of all the lowlife sounds and sirens, he thought he could hear Nico alternately crying and barking angry, unintelligible words. It wouldn’t be the first time. He stopped in front of her door and listened. Sure enough. He listened awhile longer for other voices in there with her. He heard none. He knocked. The sounds inside stopped. He knocked again and waited. Nothing. He dug around in his pocket for his keys, flipped through them, found the key to her place and tried it in the lock. The key still worked and the door pushed open. Nico had forgotten the chain guards. They swung loose on the door, scratching and rattling.
He stepped inside, left the door ajar in case he had to beat it. With Nico, he never knew what he’d find or what she’d do. He called to her again. No answer. He scanned the place. There was only a small bar to divide the kitchen from the living area and the bedroom was about the size of a closet you could see most of if the door was open. It was. Nico wasn’t in sight. There was only a heavy plastic curtain for a door to the bathroom and it was closed. He watched the curtain for a moment, thought he saw it move. But that’s like looking at a dead thing’s eyes. Stare at them long enough and you swear you see them move.
A bad feeling swept through him, heated his head, made him sweat. He heard something hard drop to the floor in the bathroom. He moved fast to the curtain and swiped it aside. And there was Nico, bent over in a pink negligee, retrieving a Bowie knife from the floor. A few drops of blood were oozing from a long scratchy line on her left inner wrist. Jay blew out all his tension in one breath. He smiled. This was classic Nico. She was a brilliant artist but a boob when it came to killing herself. Once, when she’d been unable for three weeks to get inspired to paint, she’d swallowed a handful of sleeping pills, but it was only enough to make her sleep for two days. And now, here was this thankfully uninformed approach to wrist-slitting.
Nico straightened up and blew a strand of long black hair out of her face. When she saw Jay’s smile, she bared her teeth and pointed the knife at him. “You deserted me, you fucker!” she growled. She was shaking mad.
Jay backed up. “What?” he asked, incredulous.
“You know the kind of care I need,” Nico yelled at him. “You know how fucking weak my mind is. You know how I’ll fall down if you don’t keep coming around regularly. I need to feel like I’m number one with you, you bastard! Or I can’t work! It’s not like I’m asking you to be here every minute, for chrissakes. I know you’re just a punk, got things to do. But I need you to get me up more often.”
“That’s getting old, Nico. Get yourself up,” Jay said.
“No one can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, Fool,” she hissed. She lowered the knife and grabbed a handful of toilet paper, stuck it to her wrist and looked madly around the bathroom. “Where’s my drink, goddamn it?” Jay pointed to an old fashioned glass on the toilet tank. Nico grabbed it and pushed past Jay, gave him a shove with her shoulder. The negligee opened enough for him to see she had nothing on under it. He cleared his throat. She flounced to the living area, knife in one hand, drink in the other, her feathery mules snapping the fat of her heels. Jay followed.
“If you want a drink, fix it yourself!” she hollered over her shoulder. Then she noticed the door to her place was open. “Born in a barn, were you?” she snarled. Jay rolled his eyes, took his time walking to the door. He shut it, turned and stood a few feet in front of it, by the bar, arms crossed in front of him. He stood quiet and watched her, a pretty piece of work still, at almost forty. Pink nail polish eaten away by paint thinner, pink lips moving.
“I need to feel famous, like Marilyn Monroe, Jay. I need you to kiss my ass and cater to my violent mood swings, get me my drugs, help me to the toilet when I overdose on the outrageous shit that goes down in this fucked up world, to puke it out, get it done and over with so I can go on a little longer, just a little longer…” Nico broke down, set the knife and drink down on the coffee table and let herself fall onto her ratty couch like to die. Tears pumped out of her eyes with every sob and spilled over her cheeks onto the cushions. Jay turned his eyes away from her, disgusted.
Nico knew his disgust, could feel it, and it hurt her like all of life hurts her. “I know you’re as turned off by the weak side of me as I am, Jay,” she said between sniffles. Then she grew angry again, her voice rising with loathing. “It’s the fucking ugly girl in me, so small and pathetic, so sniveling and snot-nosed and hateful, no mother could love her or even have pity for her! The sickness that comes off her is so thick and diseased, like toxic waste. No one knows what to do with it, so they just step around it, idiots in denial, denial that’ll end up killing them. Fools.”
Nico flipped onto her stomach, buried her head in the couch and wailed. Her misery thickened the air, made it hard to breathe. Jay turned to leave. He’d had enough. “This is bullshit,” he said.
Nico flipped back over and sat up, angry. “No!” she yelled at him. She got up, ran to him, grabbed his shoulder and yanked him around to face her. “Not bullshit, Jay!” She let him loose with a shove. “Fuck it, Jay, give me my strength back! Get me out of this! You know what I can do when I’m that tough girl kicking ass. That’s the girl you can’t resist. Get her back and you’ll have your girl. Talk your talk. Talk her out of this weak, ugly girl. We’ll drink and paint and write, run outside, howl at the moon, get the police called on us, elude their asses. Like we used to, Jay. Fucking do it!”
“Sorry, Nico,” Jay said. “I can’t do that shit if I don’t feel it. I came by here out of duty and it’s just not working for me. There are so many ass-kickers out there that don’t need propping up. Good artists—”
Nico leaned back and laughed a fake, raucous laugh. She bellowed, “Oh! What? You know an artist that doesn’t need propping up?” She doubled over laughing, then snapped upright and poked his chest with her finger. “Name one, fucker!”
“Alright,” Jay said matter-of-factly. “Jenny.” Nico recoiled. Jay continued, “She’s confident. In herself and her talent—”
“Are you talking about Jenny Roland?” Nico looked shocked, incredulous.
“Yeah,” Jay said smugly. “Yeah, I am.”
Nico was taken aback. She looked at him like he had two heads. “Her work sucks!” she yelled and flounced back to the couch, mules snapping.
“That’s not the word on the street, Nico,” Jay said.
Nico said nothing, just sat down on the couch, crossed one leg over the other and bounced it violently, glared at him.
“Anyway, people like Jenny are who I need to surround myself with,” Jay said. “Not ones like you who need so much attention and for what? You’re not even that good!”
Tears filled Nico’s eyes. Her shoulders drew in. She got small for a moment. Then she wiped her eyes clear of tears, sniffed and reached for her drink from the coffee table. She lifted it, started to move it toward her mouth. Her big, black eyes locked on Jay’s eyes and he saw the flames in them, but it was too late. Nico scored a direct hit to his forehead. The thick glass bottom gouged the thin skin there, split it short and wide. It looked like a hole a .348 cartridge would make. Blood ran from it like crazy as he lay still on the floor in front of the door.
Nico jumped up off the couch and ran over to him, bent to look, lifted an eyelid, checked his pulse. He’d be alright. She moved fast to kitchen, put some ice in a zip-lock bag and balanced it on top of Jay’s wound. She hurried over to her easel by the window and dragged it closer to Jay. With fast and fevered flourishes she sketched an outline of Jay’s sprawled body. Jay was stirring and groaning. Nico picked up her speed, roughly laid out a sidewalk behind him, a storefront with bars and a huge sign sticking out from it, “Dick’s Pawn,” a couple of goons in the background, running from the scene.
Jay’s eyelids were fluttering. Nico squeezed paints onto a palette, shot glances over at him and quickly, deftly mixed the various shades of his clothes, his hair, his skin, the blood. “Hold on, Jay,” she said under her breath. She stroked and dabbed at the canvas, leaned back, squinted, cocked her head, went back in. She could feel Jay’s eyes hot on her now. “You bitch,” she heard him whisper.
Nico looked over at him. He’d rolled onto his side, was holding the ice in place, smiling at her. “Thanks, Baby,” she said. She smiled and turned back to her stroking and squinting and dabbing. “You could have thought of a hotter artist than Jenny, though,” she said. “One I was more jealous of.”
Jay laughed. “Who gives a shit? It worked.” He pushed himself up, sat with his back to the door, watched her work.
Missalister’s “Dios, te necesito,” copyright © 2009, was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#192 – Weird” Click here for more on prompt #192 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.