The pre-dawn light painted the planes of Athena’s lovely face molten silver as she helped Angelika take a sip of water from a paper cup. The tubes in Angelika’s nose and throat were causing an insatiable thirst and her mouth was on fire.
“There, that’s enough, sweetheart.” said Athena, gently taking the cup away. The IV drip was supposedly rehydrating her sister and she wasn’t meant to drink anything by mouth until the process was complete. As well as the IV, she had a catheter attached to her nether regions which was also burning her. If this was some type of subliminal drug aversion therapy that they were enforcing, thought Angelika, then it was certainly most effective.
“How was Samantha’s wedding?” asked Athena, wryly, “Apparently I wasn’t famous enough to be invited.”
Angelika smirked, “It wasn’t like that. You know what a huge guest list they had.” Angelika swallowed, painfully. “I cried as Sam walked down the aisle and as you well know, I am not given to public displays of emotion. Jon was absolutely crazy about her and everyone felt without an ounce of cynicism that these two would go the distance. And yes, the lion’s share of the guest list was rather famous in one way or another. For once, I was the last person anyone was staring at.”
“You poor thing, that must have been awfully traumatic.” teased Athena.
“Hardly, blessed relief, actually.” murmured Angelika.
“So what happened next?” nudged Athena.
Angelika looked away. “Oh God, this next bit’s not pretty.”
“Full disclosure, you promised.”
Angelika sighed and laid back. “Well don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
So how does one explain love and the physical manifestations thereof? Is it the fiercely pounding heart at the mere thought of the loved one? Is it the raw visceral ache of emptiness when the loved one has gone away? Is it the counting of the slow-passing moments until one can be reunited with the loved one once more? If those were the symptoms, then Angelika was madly in love - with cocaine.
Angelika had stumbled down this particular path some time before, as she had been introduced to the drug in the early days of her modeling career. Coke was a miracle worker which was used by many of the models to keep their weight down and to give them the energy to work all day and then dance all night. The hangovers weren’t so bad; some extra strong espresso and a quick line after lunch and one could keep going and going like a beautiful, skinny Energizer Bunny; nobody cared as long as you looked good, and Angelika always looked good. Everybody was doing it - photographers, clients, designers, model agents. In fact, one was most definitely considered a total square if one didn’t carry a tiny bullet-nosed vial of coke in their purse at all times.
But during her modeling days, cocaine had never become an all-consuming passion. Angelika had worked constantly and she’d always prided herself on her professionalism. She would never have stayed up for days on end because she was constantly boarding yet another plane for yet another job in yet another city, and she would never risk getting busted by carrying anything illicit through an airport; it just wasn’t that important to her and she knew that there would always be plenty more available when she returned to London. Plus in the early ‘80’s, the kinetic buzz of the city and her burgeoning career were excitement enough.
But by the winter of 1988, things had dramatically changed. After Samantha got married in London, Angelika returned to LA to find herself unceremoniously dumped by the producers of the soap. There was no phonecall nor any warning, just a script that arrived as usual by courier the night before shooting which stated that her character was being killed off. It was that cold. Angelika arrived at the studio the following morning to be faced by previously friendly and effusive co-workers and co-stars who were now unable to meet her eyes. It was a conspiracy of silence and it felt horrible. Even Angelika’s trailer had already been cleared of her personal touches in preparation for the arrival of the latest ingenue. Angelika sleepwalked numbly through her final day and then finally on wrap, she left, biting back hot choking tears of humiliation.
It wasn’t that Angelika was overly upset at leaving the show as it hadn’t been the most fulfilling of jobs. There was no room to grow as an actor within the confines of the three takes and move on structure. It had taught her solely to learn her dialogue quickly, hit her marks perfectly and to avoid blocking the lead actor’s key light. But Angelika’s pride was deeply hurt by the coldness of her expulsion and finding herself suddenly unemployed after years of consistent work was a painful readjustment.
Angelika felt lost and very much alone. Seeing a glowing Samantha walk ecstatically down the aisle into the arms of her besotted rock star husband had affected her on a deep, subconscious level, one which she couldn’t actually verbalize. Angelika sensed that she would never find that kind of happiness with another human being and something intangible had clicked inside of her. In that moment, Angelika made an unspoken decision to render herself invulnerable. Angelika started to say yes to every invitation that was offered, and LA was buzzing at that particular time; every night there was a new underground warehouse club, an art show or a bar opening and she went to every single one. After those ended, there was the inevitible rush to the ATM to extract the cash, call the dealer and then back to someone’s house in the Hollywood Hills for the delicious ritual with the mirror and the razor blade. Angelika had somehow made herself a million acquaintances, all of whom found a vicarious thrill in mixing with someone who had actually tasted what they each craved above all else - fame. Angelika knew this, but she didn’t care. She had decided to make herself invulnerable, and that’s where the coke came in.
Cocaine made Angelika feel powerful. She was no longer a sweet, funny clumsy girl; no, lately she had become a tough, acid tongued super woman. She didn’t need love, she didn’t need sex, she didn’t need anything at all as long as she had coke coursing through her brain and bloodstream. Angelika just wanted good looking people to talk at while she was taking the drug, as she was living the truth that coke people cannot listen to one another as their egos are too caught up in their own imagined brilliance to ever absorb another’s opinion. Endless nights irrevocably turned into endless days as coke dealers kept arriving with endless supplies of the sweet, white invulnerability.
Angelika drove down Sunset Boulevard at dawn in her red Rabbit convertible as the Impala had finally been stolen and she’d breathed an internal sigh of bittersweet relief. Angelika hadn’t been home or to sleep in two days now, and it showed. Her hair stank of nicotine and ground-in mascara ringed her dry, bloodshot eyes, but at least her black Persol sunglasses did a stellar job of hiding the damage. She felt ice cold and hollowly hungry, but she knew that she wouldn’t be able to eat any solid food anytime soon.
“Manchild” by Nenah Cherry played from her car stereo and Angelika turned up the volume as she lit yet another cigarette. Numerous healthy looking people were jogging determinedly down The Strip and she laughed sarcastically at them which suddenly erupted into painful hacking. Angelika caught a sudden glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror and she noticed that her teeth were grinding robotically. That last eightball had been cut with way too much speed. They really needed to find another dealer as Lance was defintely ripping them off, but there wasn’t much you could say when it was five am and he was prepared to make house calls. Anyway, soon enough that coke had run out, along with the vodka and Angelika had been left no choice but to go home and try to get some sleep.
Angelika drove like a feeble grandmother, keeping obsessively within the speed limit and obeying every arbitrary rule of the road. She was extremely paranoid and she kept twitchily checking her wing mirrors for the predatory flash of a black and white patrol car. The last thing she needed right now was to get busted.
Angelika prayed that her father was still in bed as she hadn’t yet conjured up a story as to why she hadn’t been home or called home in two days. She resented the fact that she had to answer to someone, especially since that someone hadn’t been around at all during her childhood. Who was he to question her, anyway? She was a grown woman who was entirely self-sufficient and had been for years. She could do whatever the fuck she wanted, couldn’t she? She knew she’d have to tell him something, though. Fuck it.
Angelika pulled up and parked outside the apartment then she checked her reflection for any residual white powder that might be clinging to her nostrils. God, she looked pale. She snorted back the coke she felt still lodged in her nasal passages. Fuck, her nose fucking throbbed. She hoped her septum was still in one piece - she really didn’t want to end up with a metal tube stuck in her face. On that sobering thought, she removed her high heels and crept barefoot up the stairwell behind the apartment building to her father’s third floor apartment.
The door was opened before she had a chance to insert her key into the lock and her dad looked almost as tired as she felt. He also seemed very worried and massively relieved to see her. Angelika felt insanely guilty and she sniffed, reflexively.
“Hi Dad. Sorry I didn’t call.” Angelika was having trouble looking him in the eye and was eternally grateful for the protection afforded by her shades, “I slept at my friend’s place, we’d been drinking and I really didn’t think it was a good idea to drive.”
“For two days?” He stared hard at his daughter, while her guilt increased exponentially. Angelika used to hate lying, but it was a natural by-product of being a commited drug user and she was becoming extremely fluent at it of late.
“It’s a long story,” said Angelika while pushing past her father towards the kitchen sink where she poured herself a glass of water, while desperately willing her hands to stop shaking. George found himself torn; he knew that she wasn’t a child anymore and he didn’t really have the right to question her, but he worried so much when she kept disappearing like this, and his once beautiful baby now really looked like shit.
Her father changed the subject. “Well at least you’re home safe now. You can come and have breakfast with me at Mirabelle. There's someone I want you to meet.”
Angelika panicked. “Can't do breakfast, Dad - got a...hair appointment.”
Her father was hurt but he desperately wanted to believe his little girl, so he shyly inquired, “On a Sunday?”
Angelika kept her back turned towards him, as she hated to lie to his face. “Yeah, it's the only time Jose could fit me in. Sorry, Dad.”
“Oh, okay then. Another time, baby.” Her Dad quietly replied and then he shuffled sadly out of the kitchen while Angelika breathed a major sigh of relief.
Angelika entered her bedroom and locked the door behind her. The curtains were still drawn and her bedside lamp was still lit from when she’d left the apartment two days previously. The bed was unmade and her clothes lay haphazardly in discarded piles on the floor, bed and dresser. There was an ashtray filled with butts sitting on top of the television set and a distinctly unhealthy odor pervaded the room. Angelika vowed to clean the place up soon, but not now, definitely not now.
She walked over to her ghetto blaster, popped open the cassette deck and pulled out a tiny polythene baggie of white powder, an expired gold American Express card and a cut down drinking straw. In their place she inserted a tape of Sinead O’Conner’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and pressed play. Sinead’s pure angelic voice filled the room and Angelika sang along, "It's been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took your love away..." Her singing voice hadn’t improved any over the years but it had of late developed a deep and husky timbre. Cigarettes were defintely good for something.
Angelika wiped off a hand mirror and chopped out a long line of cocaine. She snorted half, grimacing as her right nostril screamed for mercy. She then waited briefly
for the pain to subside before using her left nostril to snort the rest.
“Fuck...” she muttered, noticing a drop of dark red blood on the end of the straw. Fucking occupational hazard. No biggie. It wasn’t like she was haemouraging like that chick at Simon’s the other night. That had been pretty freaky. What with everyone being too scared and too high to take the poor bitch to the emergency room. It had stopped eventually, anyway and everyone had rapidly returned with irritated relief to their chemical obsession. Who was that girl? Angelika wondered. She'd looked really fucking young.
Angelika wiped her nose and snorted the coke back hard, loving the sensation as the acrid fluid dripped down the back of her throat. She turned down the volume on the boombox and grabbed the phone. She desperately needed to talk to someone. She couldn’t stand to be alone with all these thoughts surging through her brain.
Who the fuck would be up this early? Europe. Athena. She dialed her number. Eventually, it was answered.
“Angelika? You're up early.” Athena was thrilled to hear her sister’s voice as it had been a while since they’d spoken.
“Yeah, I'm off to the gym in a minute.” said Angelika, through gritted teeth as she was desperately trying to control the insistent grinding of her jaws, “Got to keep up my boyish figure.”
Athena laughed from the other end of the phone, “You're so LA.” Angelika inwardly marvelled at her own facilty with lying. She didn’t even have to think about it anymore, it just flowed.
“Yup. That's me. I'm all about healthy living. How are you doing?” Angelika walked into the bathroom and started dementedly cleansing her wrecked face.
“I'm okay,” answered Athena brightly, “did Dad tell you the latest?”
“Tell me what?” Angelika scrubbed at the two day old mascara with a Q-Tip.
“He's met someone....could be our new mommy!” Athena laughed as God knows, she and Angelika had had their fair share of new mommies along the way. Angelika did not find this remotely amusing.
“Christ, him too?” She spat, “they're dropping like fucking flies.” Angelika returned to the bedroom and fished a longish butt out of the ashtray and lit it. She then wiped the coke residue from the mirror with her index finger and licked it, savouring the bitter, metallic taste.
Athena continued, “Are you okay, darling? You sound a bit weird.” Angelika covered the mouthpiece of the phone and sniffed hard, her eyes watering. She rummaged in the bottom of her closet, where she’d stashed a half empty fifth of tequila and poured some of the golden liquid into a dirty glass.
“Wired? No, no I'm fine. Perfect. Great, actually.” She threw back the tequila while fighting an almost overwhelming urge to puke.
“Are you working?” asked Athena, as tactfully as possible. Now that was a bit of a sore point. Angelika rewound the cassette tape and pushed play. Sinead’s lovely plaintive voice filled the room once more.
“Well, I've been up for loads of stuff,” she lied, speaking rapid fire, “but nothing that's right, y'know? Debbie's being really selective about what we do next.”
“Dad said he saw you in that commercial again,” replied Athena, “he said it runs all the time.”
Angelika started to undress, as usual throwing her soiled designer clothes onto a pile on the floor and then she caught a glimpse of herself in the closet’s full length mirror. She was really thin now and the outline of her ribs poked alarmingly through the pale waxy skin of her chest. Her breasts had shrunk dramatically too, but she didn't give a shit.
At least men weren’t talking to her tits anymore, which was a fucking relief. She poured some more tequila as she spoke. “God bless the Funky Guys. I'll never live it down, Athena. Does keep me in Alaia, though.”
Athena said gently, “I'm very proud of you.”
Angelika swallowed another mouthful of the harsh liquor. “Don't be so fucking ridiculous.”
Athena replied, “I am. You've really made a go of it out there.” Angelika tipped some more coke onto the mirror, dipped the AmEx card into it and then snorted the glistening white powder directly off the card’s edge.
“Well, have you met anyone?” Athena continued, knowing that Angelika was utterly hopeless at accepting praise.
“I meet people all the time,” Angelika snapped, “A plethora, a cornucopia, I can't move for meeting fucking people. Every day – people, people, people.”
“You know what I mean, sweetheart.” replied Athena.
“Look, I'm fine, OK?” responded Angelika angrily, “I'm happy on my own. Thriving.” Athena was shocked by Angelika’s aggressive tone.
“Whoa, don't be so defensive. I'm just asking. Thought you might be a bit lonely.”
Angelika dipped the AmEx card into the coke once more. There wasn’t much left. Shit. “Well, I’m not. Why, have you?”
Bitter unexplained anger rose inside of Angelika. “Wow. You, too? Why don't you all just fuck off and form your perfect little fucking couple pods, all cosseted and cozy. You and me against the world, honey. It's so fucking bourgeois.”
Athena was hurt and pissed off that her sister couldn’t at the very least be happy for her, as successful couplings hadn’t exactly been the gold standard in their family.“Christ, Angelika, what's with you?” she continued, “It's quite normal for people to have relationships, you know. It's called procreation, continuation of the species.”
Angelika couldn’t believe that Athena was actually citing Darwin at her and she growled, “Yeah, well the buck stops here. I certainly don't intend to pass our particular brand of needy DNA onto any unsuspecting and unborn future generations.” She then defiantly snorted the rest of the coke and drank another large mouthful of tequila. The alcohol was finally helping to take the edge off the speed. Fucking Lance.
Athena realized that this particular conversation was going nowhere, and she certainly didn’t feel like rehashing their childhood, especially when Angelika was in such a blatantly vitriolic mood. "That's just a little extreme, don't you think? You're too young to be so bitter. Look, I love you. Period."
Angelika was silent; suddenly she felt very sad and wanted to get the fuck off the phone. Now.
Athena pushed, “Angel, this is where you say it back.”
Angelika couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard the words ‘I love you,’ other than spoken by some complete stranger who’d seen her on TV and her throat was suddenly constricted by emotion.
“It back.” she whispered, trying hard to swallow back the rising tide. She fucking hated herself.
Athena was becoming thoroughly exhausted by her sister. “God, you’re childish.”
Angelika angrily finished the last of the tequila, “Childhood was a luxury that our family situation refused to afford us, remember?” She was relieved to be back on the offensive and felt the tears subside.
“I love you. Angelika - say it.” Athena wasn’t giving up.
Eventually Angelika responded, “I love you. Good-night.”
“Good morning, darling.” replied Athena.
Angelika hung up the receiver and rewound the tape again. “It’s been seven hours and fifteen days...” And then she started to cry.