“Quite a few people in town know by now that it’s some kind of recording studio,” says Evelyn, “but they’re pretty hazy about it, ’cos there’s no sign saying ‘G.N.’—just those few old letters standing on the roof, from when this was a grand hotel.”
“Yeah,” I chip in. “With just those left up there, if I hadn’t already known we were coming to somewhere called the Metropolitan, I’d have assumed this clapped-out old hulk was just the Metropol.”
Seeing Evelyn get up and head across the room, I rise and wander after her. Once we’re alone in the kitchen, I murmur “I’m sorry I gave the game away to Alaia earlier, I am such a dipstick—”
“Yeah, nice work,” she replies, giving me a hug. “You’d make a great undercover agent.” She takes a pack of beer cans from the fridge. “Will Alaia be discreet? My job’s on the line here.”
“Oh yes,” I reply, tuning in while I speak … and they’ve known you here for years, Evelyn, circulating through the streets, adding to the summer with your laugh. What fun it was, to lose control on a Friday night or a Saturday night, or both! What a rush to trip on acid, lying on the grass among the ducks on the island by the bridge on Sunset Lake with friends, after you saw that band play at the Saint over on Main Street. What better use of dollars than to drink them in a bar or on the beach beneath the summer stars, as someone played drums in the distance? All those words and laughs and fights and flashes of metal and cash and alcohol have flown away, and that whole scene is mostly gone; but how enriched you were by it, and how you returned the favour. They all saw you climbing into cruising cars at midnight, and sniffing coke in alleyways and nightclub toilets, your painted face alive and smiling, high from the scent of the gasoline and fuel oil spilled on the pavement where your high heels strutted. Outside the deli by the hole in the wall you would stand with your arms folded, leaning on the pay-phone, thinking of the coins and the bills in the pocket of your tight blue jeans, as you cocked an ear to some wild tale that the glamorous proto-anorexic Angel was telling you, before he found Lucan: in your eyes, as you heard him, were fun, compassion, sparkle and humanity. At Kingsley and Second was the corner where you sold yourselves, surrounded by the bars and clubs and empty lots and run-down homes and crumbling hotels. What a shit job, but you both made the best of it.
You’d never known another place to live than Asbury Park; you were used to it and loved it with a rough love, as home. Back then, it was only the marginal who moved here; most people bypassed this bombsite-by-the-sea full of people who would stay and die. Slowly since then, however, different kinds of people have been moving in, unexpected people. Jason came, for instance; and though he went away again, he left behind the sound-stage and hired you to drive for it.
And so you left the street and stayed off it, but you’re independent always. You move in your space with the beauty of a swagger, like an everyday assassin. To the drum-beat inside you, you shake your hips, flick your long black hair through the air, and run with no gang. It seems you hang with everyone, and yet you are a lone wolf, a sunny band of one. Good god, you’re beautiful.
“Beer?” she offers me.
“No thanks. You know, I never could be doing with beer.”
“Really? What else is there to drink? Aside from bourbon.”
“What else? There’s a whole range of effete and picturesque cocktails for every occasion.”
She creases up at this. “You’re cuckoo!”
“Evelyn, I distinctly saw you drinking champagne earlier tonight.”
“I was just slumming it, for you. I’m having a Bud, thanks.” And she grabs a can, rips the top off and takes a long swig.
“But there’s just so much of it,” I reason, “compared with the other options. Where d’you put it all?”
She swallows, looking sunnily up at me, and I can see the beer fizz popping behind her eyes. “You piss it out, what d’you think?” she blinks.
“I mean where d’you put it before you piss it out?”
She lifts up her bright yellow T-shirt, slaps her curvaceous tan stomach and cackles raucously at me, “Right here, honey!”
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