By Deborah Thompson
So, I’m here, on this bridge over the motorway, waitin’ for a guy. It’s early, and the chill in the air is kinda painful. The road’s dead empty. You’d think, even at this time in the mornin’, when the night is startin’ to gray, there’d be vehicles. It’s desolate. That’s the word Desiree’d be likely to use, if she was here.
I’m feelin’ bare heavy, like gravity’s too much for me. I’m slumpin’ over the metal railin’, when I’m makin’ out this figure at the other end of the bridge. It’s a bird, a young bird with a righteous body, as is obvious by the way her thin dress kinda folds around her. So I limp over there for some chirps, and I see she’s not so young after all.
“Waiting for a ride, lady?” I’m big with the subtle first-liners.
She goes all white-eyed like she thinks I’m gonna jump her, which I guess is not surprisin’, this being a desolate place and me being a dude, but it’s still, like, borin’. She’s wrong, by the way. I’m not that kinda guy. I’ve messed up a few people in my life, but never females. Desiree’d never forgive me.
“I know,” I say. “Didn’t figure on seein’ such a gorgeous bruv round here, right?” This is irony, or sarcasm. Desiree did tell me the difference once, but I forget.
The lady lifts her fine eyebrows. “How old are you?” she asks.
“Old enough,” I say, wagglin’ my own eyebrows. She huffs, but she’s stopped movin’ away.
There’s somethin’ about her I like. Those diamonds round her throat are for real, no shit, but she’s kinda sad-lookin’, as if she’s got nowhere else to go. Same as me. And I know I’ve seen her someplace before.
She’s lost that white-eyed look, and is runnin’ her eyes around my gorgeous bod like I’m apples in a fruit shop.
“Checkin’ out my designer labels?” I say. Then it hits me. “Wait, you’re that film star, right?”
I’m kinda gassed, like a kid at Disneyland. Seriously uncool, so I tone it down quick.
“You’ve been in like a gazillion films. I swear my sister’s seen ‘em all. She really rates you, yeah?”
I’m amazed she’s still alive. She’s been goin’ for years, and, truth, the paler the air gets, the older she looks. Not honest old, like Nan, whose face looks like a rockfall, but disguised old, with fine lines under the make-up and a stretched-out look to her eyes and cheeks.
She shrugs and huffs again.
“Yes, I’m famous all right. And mega rich.”
“You don’t look bare happy about it,” I say. “Just sayin’. If I got your success, I’d be jumpin’ the moon!”
“Yeah, right,” she says. “You think?”
She smiles a tight smile, then lets out a sigh so big she kinda deflates, like a blow-up doll.
“I know, I know. I’ve got everything I asked for, and more. I’m not complaining. Except, fuck it, I am!” She throws her head back, lookin’ at the sky.
“Nobody warned me. Nobody told me the years would go by so fast! One minute, I’ve got it all. The next, I’m here, on this bridge, in a motherfucking shitload of debt!”
“We all have a price to pay, fam,” I say. “Believe me, I know all about that.”
I can’t believe I’m talkin’ so easily to this famous lady, like she was my own sister. She reminds me of Desiree, in fact. That mixture of street talk and school talk.
And I do know what she’s talkin’ about. You live your life thinkin’ it’s never goin’ to end, and then you find yourself in hospital, attached to tubes, tied to a machine. I also know about motherfuckin’ shitloads of debt. This lawyer came into my hospital room, right. He was wearing a sharp suit, but looked like a neek, with his limp hands and a froggy kinda face. The sort of easy mark me and my crew might have targeted back in the day.
He told me he could make sure the wasteman who ran me over would pay ultra-compensation.
“Yeah right,” I said. “No win, no fee I suppose?”
“Of course,” he said. “But it’s not your money I’m after.”
All of a sudden, he didn’t look so much like a mark.
After some chat, I came round to thinkin’ the deal he was offerin’ was legit. He could get me enough bands to send Desiree to college. Enough to make sure she don’t never make the same mistakes as me.
“I’m meeting someone,” says my film star. “In answer to your question. I’m meeting the man who made all this possible.” She does a little twirl. Definitely ironic.
“He was an agent, a big one. He looked like a toad, but God help me, I was ready to sleep with him if he’d represent me. That’s not what he wanted, though.”
“Whoa,” I say. “Not cool. I guess this was all before Hashtag Me Too and shit?” I get this from my sister, innit.
My film star groans. “Christ! What a fool I was! Greedy, blind, stupid. I signed that contract with my own blood. That’s not a metaphor, by the way. I thought I had forever, and now…he’s coming to get what I owe him.”
“Same,” I say. “Got a contract shoved in my face. I was, like, bandaged head to foot, but I managed to sign, once he found a vein. And now I’m here, waitin’ for the geezer.”
She gives that huffy laugh again, which kinda reminds me of the clapped respirator I was hooked up to.
“What?” I say.
“I was just thinking,” she says. “What are the odds we’re waiting for the same thing?”
A vehicle appears on the empty road ahead. It’s a dot at first, but man it’s fast, and gettin’ bigger by the second. It’s flickerin’ black and red and it’s smokin’. Burnin’. I can feel the heat from here.