I was in a car accident. I came out okay. My car did not. Now I can say, blithely, “I totaled my Maserati,” and sound all reckless and decadent. Conveniently leaving out the fact that I was going maybe ten miles an hour at the time. (I was coming out of a restaurant parking lot, got caught between a car changing lanes and a car parked curbside. I had a moment to realize exactly what was going to happen, the other driver staring at me in frozen horror, her cell phone stuck to her ear, as her car seemed to drift weirdly toward me….After the impact, the sickening sound of which indicated to me that I would not be driving this car home tonight, or possibly ever again, my thinking went: E is going to kill me!, and, WTF happened and was it my fault?.
Later, as I sat on the curb talking to a (rather cute) police officer and drinking sugared water someone gave me to help my body fight off shock, my friend pointed out how different things might have been if the point of impact centered on the driver’s door instead of the wheel in front of it. The wheel was on the road, the frame around it smashed and twisted beyond repair. Suddenly I no longer cared about anything other than the fact that I had walked away. I didn’t even get whiplash.
A moment of silence, please, for the beautiful midnight-blue eco-evil car.
The gods are punishing me for driving such an evil car. It is their way of telling me, “Go forth and buy a Prius, damn you. Or, if you insist on wallowing in such conspicuous horrible hedonistic consumerism, a Lexus hybrid luxury sedan! But stay away from the Maserati Quattroporte! Think not of its sinuous grace, its long and willowy body, the way it made your stupid shallow heart skip a beat every time you saw it across a crowded parking lot and thought, There you are, my beauty, come to me…Although since you are an inanimate object, I shall come to you…”
It is the femme fatale of cars. I hate to love it. I would love to hate it, if I could even hate it, which I can’t.
I hate that I can’t hate it.
I resist its siren call. Buy me. A new version of me. Insurance will cover it. The dark-red me with beige interior at the Pasadena dealership. Or my other, equally attractive selves at the dealership in Beverly Hills. You know this because you went to the websites and researched the inventory. I can belong to you again. I wait for you, my darling. I am legion…
Resist, resist. See Justine resist. Although something Joanna said recently can’t help but come to mind: “I yield easily to temptation.” This, of course, is partly why we’re best friends. Which does not bode well for me.
Joanna drives a Maserati Quattroporte.
There will be a sequel to LORD OF BONES, which of course is the sequel to BLOODANGEL. I’m too superstitious to say, “This is now a series,” because if I do that I might jinx myself. (Maybe that’s why I totaled my car — it was a preemptive jinx.)
Due to ongoing and consuming personal drama I will not go into here, I hadn’t been writing much. I had, however, been mentally kicking around thoughts for book 3, should there be a book 3, and was starting to think about putting together an outline to submit to agent and editor when one morning the phone rang and lo, it was the agent. My publisher, she said, had already made an offer for the book. I wasn’t even aware that you could sell a book you had not only not written but had barely even brainstormed yet, much less committed to hard copy, much less submitted even the slightest portion thereof to the usual powers-that-be. But Roc had gotten the pre-sale numbers from the bookstore chains and lo, they were good. Or at least good enough to make them think that this could be a viable series. My agent made it very clear that Roc had made it very clear that they want book 3 out on the relative heels of book 2 — none of this three-years-in-between shit. It would appear they frown on that.
My father remarked, “Remember when you were writing LORD OF BONES, otherwise known as THE BOOK THAT KICKED JUSTINE’S ASS? Remember how you kept saying and blogging and emailing that never again would you put yourself in a position where you had to write an entire novel against such a tight deadline, that it leached all joy out of the process, that it made you stressed and miserable and unable to be as obsessive-compulsive as you like to be and procrastinate as much as you like to procrastinate? That it takes all the happiness not just from writing but procrastinating itself?”
“Yes,” said I.
“Remember how you said you would never ever put yourself in that position ever again? Never never never never never?”
“Right,” said I.
My agent forwarded me an email from my editor: Can Justine get the manuscript to us in six months?
I emailed back: Of course!.
The other day, E was at the Tesla store chatting with a bunch of nice lowkey British dudes. They left, and E left for home, and then he checked the email on his Blackberry and found a message from the store manager that said, Those British guys? That was Coldplay. They’re in town for the MTV Awards. They’re friends of mine. Do you want to have dinner with us and about 20 other people?
“Do you want to have dinner with Coldplay?” E asked me.
“Let me think. Okay.”
I actually don’t know Coldplay’s music well, except for a few songs I downloaded and went through a period of playing often. I hadn’t even seen the iPod commercial, although E had (“Cool iPod commercial”). I was aware that they’re famous to the point of being adored and reviled in equal measure. (It’s one thing to be adored, but when you’re reviled in equal measure…now that’s a sign you’ve truly made it.) When we arrived at the restaurant — over an hour late, long story — I recognized Chris Martin easily enough. He was sitting at the far end of one of the two long tables that filled the small private area at the back. E and I sat at the other table, nowhere near speaking distance with Chris, which was fine with me. Sometimes I just want to gawk; conversation itself feels too tiring, especially when the last thing you want to do is end up asking the same stupid things everybody else ends up asking and bore the guy to death. He doesn’t necessarily deserve that.
The guy across from me introduced himself. I promptly forgot his name, of course, and asked if everybody here was British. No, came the answer, about an equal mix British and American. I mentioned a similar gathering when I was teaching ESL in Japan — a group of us gaijin would go out for a meal and completely forget our various accents and cultural differences until the waiter asked, “Tea or coffee?” and the Canadians and Americans would blurt “Coffee!” the same moment the Brits chirped, “Tea!” I found this amusing but maybe you had to be there. Because the guy just kind of looked at me.
I was feeling unusually chatty so I turned to the woman beside me. She was from Brooklyn. She worked for a start-up magazine. She was polite enough but had a weary I-don’t-really-want-to-make-chitchat kind of air. It was an attitude that reminded me of myself, frankly, and so I didn’t take it personally.
I attended to my chopped salad. And then the muscular British dude who had suffered my tea/coffee anecdote struck up conversation after all, and we were off and running. It was one of those cases where that awkward cocktail-talk feeling drops away and you abruptly realize that you and the other person have grooved into a genuinely fun conversation. Then he started talking about how much he liked the kind of living space you can’t find in London and how he and his family had purchased a fifteenth-century castle (“Not the kind of thing you find in LA,” I remarked, and he agreed) complete with their own moat (“How do you decorate a moat?” I couldn’t resist asking. “What kind of outdoor furniture do you use?” And he just kind of looked at me.) Which is when I figured he was some kind of music producer. (This, I think, is a mark of living in LA; when someone shows signs of real wealth, you assume ‘producer’ until proven otherwise.)
But then I noticed how the don’t-smalltalk-me woman to my left was radiating new interest in my direction, trying (and failing, and then giving up) to take part in the conversation with the big bald British dude, and possibly wondering who I was that he would talk to when he wasn’t talking to her. Which is when I realized he probably wasn’t a producer but a member of Coldplay who wasn’t Chris Martin. I didn’t ask and he didn’t volunteer that information, and we went on talking about stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with music or the music business or being famous or whatever.
It’s actually really annoying to realize that this person you think is cool is also Famous — or the inverse, that this Famous person is actually pretty cool — because the chances of meeting at Starbucks next week and developing what might turn into friendship are, shall we say, slim to none. Even if Famous Person had the slightest inclination to do so, the crazy job of being famous has him on a plane to New York or Hawaii or Tokyo or something, surrounded by about ten layers of entourage fighting for shards of his attention.
“Good-bye, darling,” he said, and we did the double-cheeked farewell kiss. Oh well. We’ll always have Boa Steakhouse…the one in Santa Monica, not the one in West Hollywood, which is where E and I went first, before realizing we had the wrong Boa, which is why we were so late. Because we’re idiots.
Later, I was on the treadmill watching the alt-rock countdown on Fuse when I finally saw the iPod commercial and recognized the silhouette of the drummer as the dude I’d been talking to whose name I still can’t remember. And I think about the ease and delight of that conversation and how we both might have experienced something similar — a kind of slipping-out from behind the perceived identities that dictate how other people respond to us, the questions they ask, and don’t think to ask. He was not a member of Coldplay and I was not some anonymous trophy wife.
Before we left, the guy who’d invited us to the dinner — (“You remind me of this girl I knew in high school,” he told me, suddenly dropping into the chair beside me. “Her name was Lindsay, and she was kind of punk rock”) — brought Chris over to introduce him to E. “I’m not a car guy,” Martin informed E, but assured him that some of the other guys were and thought the Tesla Roadster was amazing and awesome. Martin paid almost no attention to me — the trophy wife doesn’t get much attention, people don’t exactly assume that she’s intelligent or interesting in her own right, and I say this not to bitch but as simple observation, since I’m guilty of such assumptions myself — which allowed me to openly study him. He was not handsome or sexy. He was slightly gangly and awkward, with a receding chin, and he bobbed a bit as he talked — the kind of guy who didn’t have an easy time of it in high school. Which in my mind explained right there — rightly or wrongly — a lot of his success. Chris Martin is of the tribe of geek. He was a music geek. While his peers were partying or at the mall or just enjoying the sheer youthful glory of themselves, he was pursuing his obsession with music, and now he’s a gifted rock star married to a movie star and they’re not.
That tends to be how it goes. Today you’re a geek. Tomorrow you’re ruling the world. The skill and knowledge and practice you picked up alone in your room translates into powerful currency in the real world (ie: life after high school) in a way that being cool or popular rarely does.
Which doesn’t make the memory of high school any less painful, but hey. Keeps you humble.