Do Not Entertain! Down with Virtuosos! Sex Appeal Sucks!
I typed and deleted a few preambles to this scene from my novel-in-progress. I attempted some tenuous link to Thanksgiving, explaining that the action takes places New York, which is America... I tried to make a joke about the character being called Ruby and my Substack coming out on Sundays and you know, The Stones, Ruby Sunday… it’s didn’t work. I tried to explain how Ruby fits into the plot, but realised it was kind of irrelevant at this juncture... I considered apologising for the unsavoury breakfast reading, but I’m not sure it would be any easier to stomach at lunchtime... So instead you get a preamble about the lack of preamble…
Ok, here goes!
She was better at asking questions than answering them. He would have to wait to hear the rest. Her tragicomedy. Her East Village escapades. The gigs and the comedowns. The ridiculous rules by which Tobias lived and how she’d bought into every one of them. Do Not Entertain! Down with Virtuosos! Sex Appeal Sucks! Strict views were verbalised. He had his manifesto spray-painted on his guitar and clung to it like a shield against any voices of dissent. Exploit your vulnerability! Extol your imperfections! Expose your soul! Ruby fell right into his dominant Manhattan speech patterns, screeching her way through tough crowds and 120 dB. She was a converted comrade. She lost her voice and her vote. Looking back now she couldn't believe how long it took her to get the hell out of there.
-What the fuck Ruby. What the fuck. I let you live in my apartment and now you want to own me? It's just a fucking song like all the other songs. But hey you know what? It's not just a fucking song. It's all fucking true. And that's why you're freaking out like it's not okay. Like this is some sort of exclusive bourgeois shit, like we're sleeping in the same bed so all I'm going to do is write pretty lame-ass love songs about you. And you know what?
He allowed himself an extended pause to take the two lines he'd been meticulously cutting on the bread board.
-You know what? Fuck songs. Why should I expose my most intimate experiences for the sake of whoever's even listening? Like they really give a shit about me. Why should I turn my personal failures, my beautiful failures, into universal four-line choruses in hope that someone relates and laughs – if not with me, then at least at me. Go on! Laugh at me, you fucking strangers! Fuck honesty. And then on top of that I get you analysing the fuck out of my shit and accusing me of screwing some other chick WHICH I DON'T EVEN DENY, CAUSE YOU DON'T OWN ME. What do you want me to do, hide everything like you? Like you think you're so cool cause you're wearing my Pavement t-shirt and pretending it covers up your thin little body? Like you don't hope some fly A&R dude will pick you up at a show and promise to make you famous with your Mariah Carey voice? You don't know shit about what it means to give everything of yourself. What, are you crying now?
She really tried. It toughened her up before it broke her down. Somehow, so in thrall of her literate lover, she managed to attribute his darker outbursts to the drugs and the depression. She convinced herself these were justifiable excuses which could be worked on and eventually overcome. She did not run. She hung around, loyal to her musical master, glossing over the groupies. There were good times, whole days when they wouldn't leave the bed, ordering take-out and watching The Wire. Other times, when Tobias would disappear, she spent the lonely hours learning the back catalogue of rock'n'roll on his high-maintenance turntable, which stopped working every time someone sneezed. Hank Williams, Lou Reed and Marianne Faithful kept her company. On a few particularly long nights she sought solace in the Whitney Houston Greatest Hits LP that had somehow snuck its way into the collection. Probably an ironic Christmas present from a one-time, Doc Marten-wearing lover.
love it, Lail!! really! keep writing!! excited to see where it goes!