Could You Love Me in a Bentley? Could You Love Me on a Bus?
They elected a new president yesterday. I met one of the old ones once, Mr. Obama. Remember him? Mister Obama. That’s what they made us call him. Mister. We were forbidden from using his first-name in front of him for whatever reason. That was years ago now, when things were okay for me.
Call me Curtis. Years ago, I was somebody. I was somebody who got shot nine times and made money from it. Vast sums. Eleven million album sales worth of money. There was a time when, for a few years, a decade at least, I practically bathed in diamonds and hundred dollar bills. I drank the finest champagne, ate the best salmon on this earth, slept with supermodels and actresses. I was invincible. I went from peddling crack on street corners as a pre-pubescent to rapping at globally televised award ceremonies. I was on TV screens and in the magazines. Someone wrote a book about me (it wasn’t very good. I prefer work by authors like Robert Coover and Paul Auster), college kids sent me detailed analyses of my work, loftily hyping me as a Marlowe for the post-modern world. Women threw underwear at me, most of which I kept in a vault in my nineteen room mansion (I had four bathrooms and a bowling alley), the rest went to thrift stores. By went to, I mean to say I sent an assistant to do it for me. I had assistants to do all sorts: shop for me (7 x white socks/7 x black Calvin Klein’s every week for seven years), cook for me, to tell me where I was meant to be going and what I was meant to be doing when I got there.
I doubt I’ll meet this president. Maybe we’re only meant to meet one in a lifetime. Some people, hell, most people, never meet one. Maybe I should have made more of it at the time. I remember shaking his hand, telling him I admired him and wished him the all best for the future. All I could look at, however, was his neck. His thin, scraggy neck, a neck that was dwarfed by the crisp Italian shirt he was wearing. This new guy has a proportionate neck, I’ll give him that. Truth be told I don’t know much about him. I should care more, I know, I know.
The happiest days of my life were the ones where I could just be me. When I could sit on my waterbed flicking through some literary periodical, a modern classical record quietly dripping from the speakers, a can of Coke and a ham and coleslaw sandwich resting on the mahogany bedside table. I’d read and make notes and look up the things that interested me on the internet. If it was particularly intriguing I’d sometimes make it up to an hour before I succumbed to hardcore pornography. All those orifices, and all those obliging members. A period of self-loathing would follow the proceeding onanistic flights of fantasy, but before I knew it, Calvin’s round my ankles, tissue on the table, I’d be in an in-exhaustive web of interconnected trivia. Half-days would pass in this cyberspaced-out haze. Those afternoons, when it was just me and the cooks and the maids and my assistants, those are the moments I treasure.
Women. I liked women, I still like women. I met a lot of them when I wasn’t just Curtis. All kinds of them. What’s that Woody Allen line in Play It Again, Sam? “I’ll get broads up here like you wouldn’t believe: swingers, freaks, nymphomaniacs, dental hygienists.” It was just like that. When I watched the election all I could think about was the losing candidate (young, too enthusiastic, gap-toothed and bouffant-ed) having the same surname as I girl I met in New York. She came to my show at Madison Square Garden. I played there several times. Madison Square Garden. She waited for me by the exit. It was summer, the city was as sweltering as any writer you’ve ever read would have you believe, and she stood patiently waiting for hours. My manager, when I needed someone to manage my life, told me a fan was waiting, that she had a package with her, asked if I felt safe. I had no reason not to, having already been shot nine times. He fetched this fan. The package she carried contained a collection of stories by John Updike, a writer I admired, mainly for his continual, career-spanning investigation of middle-class mores, and a Moleskine notepad. This girl, with the same surname as the man who will always be known as the man who wasn’t president, had eyes that belied her age. I invited her into my dressing room, apologising for the litter that lined the floor (cellophane, bread crusts, Evian bottle-tops), the profanity of the music that was pumping from a stereo in the corner, and the amount of fur being worn (my crew, my posse, wore expensive jackets made from the finest quilted mink pelts). She blushed and mumbled that it was fine. I kissed her firmly on the lips, my hand planted on her buttock. Being famous meant I could do this. She consented, appeared to consent at least, to this kiss. I signalled for my boys to leave. Tony Yayo, Lloyd Banks, and the others left. This girl, she was a Mindy, or a Petra, or one of those other names that only slight, Nordic brunettes have, smiled down on me.
“I hope you like the gift,” she said.
“Yes, thank you, thank you. How did you know I was a fan of his?”
“I just sort of assumed.”[Soft Break] “You assumed correctly.
“And,” she began, my hand now resting on her thigh, “I thought you could write lyrics or something in the notebook. Maybe even a story about how you met a fan who gave you a notebook and a collection of short stories”
The bank took possession of the mansion six years ago now. The cars went too. So did the jewellery. They even, and this rankled more than anything, took my personalized pearlescent bowling ball. I loved that bowling ball. I lost my money after an investment went wrong but you probably read about it in newspapers so I won’t recount the events again. Things changed after that. Obviously. I moped around my mom’s house for months after, too scared to go grocery shopping in case people saw me and asked “Hey, didn’t you used to be 50 Cent? The commercially successful and critically acclaimed rapper who combined street smart narratives with business savvy? Didn’t you star in major motion pictures and video games? And didn’t I see you in an episode of The Simpsons once?” before looking at me again, with my week-worn vest and sweat-stained sweatpants, and deciding that, no, no I wasn’t who they thought I was.
I took up writing fiction, reasoning to myself that I’d read enough to know what was good and that I’d been a success with words before. Words were all I had left. I began to craft slight narratives, the type of short stories that students write where not much happens and the endings are inconclusive and that’s okay because they’re short stories. I tried writing a novella about writing a novella about writing a novella but I realised it was never going to work. Sometimes I write about my old life, or what I like to remember my old life being like. Sometimes I like to pretend that I was someone different, someone called Curtis.
Josh is a young writer living and working in London, he recently wrote a collection of stories from the fictitious points of view of contemporary R&B stars. Contact details are available upon request.