Architectural Digest 1964; the walls cocaine; she is standing tall like her mother told her. Chest up, chin up, shoulders square She is flying. She is pretending she is posing and Henri Cartier Bresson just walked through the door and She is not, in fact, 64. She above all that, though. Age. Charades. She is a bird.
For on a balcony nestled above the deep jewel vat of water all blue like how she imagines Ibiza she thinks this is it. It is 2012 and a few years behind schedule but something in the starving halogen glow of it all says it is her moment. Yes this is it.
Nevermind she wonders when it became all hinged on this; the party a well-dressed line dance of people passing time to steady metronome tick of whiskey craft laughs.
September air; cold. Standing next to him inside the bubble boy room her teeth stack colored like the soy lattes she orders with a “keep em coming,” while trying to floss away the urge to drink just one drop of a drink of a ….
With a smile straight jacket stern, her lips lock back shut as if she can still taste the plaque from when she strayed and had “just one.” But that was years ago, at least three. Old History. And it’s California. Everybody’s crazy. Sandy fucking Ego, I mean Eggo, I mean Just one. Just one! “Fuck it,” her shoulders say as they sway with new found swagger. What’s in a name? Penny Lane. Penny fucking lane.
She feels young the way those LA types never could with their MDMA and amphetamine fueled dreams. She gleams with superiority at a 20 something who pulls at her dress wondering why that old cougar is staring..we haven’t met? she’s probably somebody’s mom or won tickets off Twitter or something. The girl turns away.
Penny throws her head back with that old swing. She’s the real thing. No! the ORIGINAL thing. Fuck Kate Hudson. Fuck everybody. Fuck this dumb dress picked out by some Nordstrom rack “stylist,” some “i’m in community college but I really wanna model” 18 year old. Fuck her. Fuck her suggestions on ‘style,’ Penny Lane has style. IS STYLE…Fuck what’s instyle. Times to change for Penny Lane. Penny Lane is timeless. And tired. But!
Soon they will all want to be HER again, she is not vintage, she is alive she was alive back then back before HE Mr. Gus Van Sant was him, before he cast some LA actress to whore out her story and strip it down it’s romanticism steel cut blades of sex, talk and drive . it wasn’t like that then. Women still wondered. Women still were a wonder. A force to be reckoned with and maybe a little bit afraid of; at least they were of her. Men.
Penny Lane is waiting. The sun is fading faster than the bartender will let melt into. It is 5pm not even hardly evening. She drinks from the plastic cup he gives her half ice and a drop of gin and pretends it is a chalice, and raises her glass towards the sky, imagining she is Rose in Titanic before the ocean. But the plastic sweats and her hands must grasp it thick like the snakeskin flask she used to hold, a gift from a leading member of bitching band whose name she can’t reveal, she’s sworn to secrecy. Unlessyouwannapourheranotherdrinktherehoney?
On the carpet red, thin like a bandaid the cameras line for him, her Gus Van Sant, her madman, her hero, who birthed then immortalized the Penny Lane of today into the realm of reel time. She tries to catch his eye from inside as he moves past her with Frankenstein steps that say he too is tired, but maybe for different reasons; gingerly he head nods past the cameras that chat at him; his eyes taut like his pants might be too tight or maybe this crowd is just not quite right they don’t know moments like he knows milliseconds, they don’t even hardly know him they just know money and time and shine and suddenly she is there smiling at him like they’re old friends her nails pressing him like he is a pin cushion; suddenly it is over he is caught he must become Him.
Gus Van Sant is stage right, her toast colored teacup chichuaua dressed as an plush pink angel tucked under his armpit while her new Norwegian child-bride boyfriend, fresh off the boat from the wilds of Portland escorts her to the stage. Gus Van Sant is holding my bitch, bitch, see bitches, she keeps repeating until it sticks and she is safe.
“Penny Lane!” says the thin young Craigslist job winner, who announces Penny’s name and walks nervous making Penny nervous as if both of them are trespassing. “What am I doing here? “ the announcers blue blank eyes seem to shout, almost as loud as the applause Penny gives herself, fucking up her timing, yet again.But yet again her audience seems unphased. Except for the announcer who is giving her the look that says Who is this hideous woman? Don’t fuck this up for me lady..don’t make me look stupid. Stop clapping. No keep clapping! Who’s name am I supposed to calling??
Hired online last minutes as tonight’s award presenter, a gig she totally Facebook statused earlier but no one liked, so she questions if he’s even THAT famous. Good Will Hunting? “An 90’s thing,” she guesses. For there’s no way this Penny woman is an actress, maybe she’s this guys mom or? she is a character, whoever she is. maybe she is an actress. just one of those weird hipster ones that act all pretentious like looks have nothing to do with it; Liposuction that shit.
In a blue blazing mumu Miss Penny Lane (i.e in real life if you were wondering) takes the podium, this time with more confidence more drunk on questions from her adoring public, none of which (thankfully) inquire where she’s been they just want to know where she’s been but back way back when there was somewhere to be.
“I’m not the kind of person who wanted to be famous,” she says with a laugh like a cough, the first line of her speech that answers a question, amongst all the questions throughout all the years no one has ever asked if she wanted it; *wait for it* She breathes as if winning at the Academy’s, “or even Almost Famous.”
Everyone wants to be famous, lady. Get real. The award presenter is starting to get bored and it’s not even five minutes in. She laughs out loud and nothing at how fucking ridiculous and full of themselves people can get when put in front of an audience. If you can call it that. She counts the empty seats.
Peggy Lane winks after quoting the movie title in which her life was the template. She hopes you noticed. She hopes you find her witty. A real human. A genuine down to earth girl in a world of glittering possibility who just happened to become something. She was one of you. You people in the audience looking at her like she has the secret.
But she suddenly realizes she’s nervous, dropping her notecard, she stoops and looks at them. they all seem to know she is now a ghost, they look at her strange, but she continues reading as if from a greeting card, dictating a welcome to her dear friend Gus Van Sant whose sitting alone front row.
From the side his profile is weirdly sort of Mister Rogersy, like you could just tell him things and he’d never get bored or tell you to get home or that your being stupid, just maybe a little too hard on yourself, then would make you some tea and let you help him fold his sweaters; while you silently sat beside him you’d wonder if this collection of seconds would someday become a scene in his movies while he said nothing just kept on folding.
He looks at her as the room goes dark. She is cut short. Robin Williams comes on the video screen just like in the movies but this time no costume just an aging man and an iphone and a private speech made public to show how Mr. Gus Van Sant is an everybody’s kind of man. He says thank you. The night rolls; another scene.
Deeper in the evening, ,Anne Heche now up to honor him begins her thanks in the atrium a doing impersonations no one asked for but everyone at least is laughing and she throws blank notecards in the air ala Penny Lane and everyone looks embarrassed at the blatant reinacting of something that happened mistakenly but who cares, Lane will be back on a plane to wherever she came from. Heche feels better. She has won her audience. She has exposed their feelings by the most organic expression one can hope for they are smiling but maybe a little guiltily like thought they had been able to pass off delicately but she has outed them, their faces as they watch her tell her everything. She is an actress, goddammit.
Long past Heche has decided she is done smiling for the evening a grandma type comes up and pinches her thin arm sharp as if she is wearing a wool sweater and says “Dear youre so pretty!!” Anne Heche nods knowingly, dismissing her smiling, wondering if the lady’s claws will have left a bruising.
Lane’s Norweigian boyfriend has made a friend of his own a boy in all black who barks, “I want a vodka straight up! I’m freezing!” “Gotta have a few cubes..” says the bartender rolling his eyes at the slender frame below him, shaking as if he is dying. “It’s orders; no shots allowed sir.”
Across the room a woman in a low cut red dress with one shot on her lips to impress “Mr. GVS” (as she calls Gus Van Sant in her planner where she penned in ATTENDING RED CARPET PREMIERE!! earlier) sticks out her chest , saying hello with an alto growl like they are long lost lovers. He looks amused and chews ice and shakes her hand while looking around for an escape tactic. A neighboring kid shyly hiding clutching a camera appears from behind the milk hips stretched thin against the fake silk of the woman.
Gus sees him and says the only four words I hear him say all evening that haven’t been demanded by him by something somebody wanted; “Get in here buddy,” he says, kneeling.
The flash beams as the kid grins golden, the red of the woman garish against his rose beauty.
The seconds click; a moment. Gus walks into the evening, passing Penny, stopping momentarily. Suspending the dog by his terry cloth now baby blue bedazzled hoodie he blends into the evening, an ordinary solitary man, for a moment, un-noticed.