“Cut,” says a quiet voice.
Dark, quiet. Where is this? A fluorescent light flickers on. A squint at different great events, slanting through the windows of this same narrow room…
There’s a whoop, in Evelyn’s voice. The lights around the lenses, which have been cocooning me in my own space by obscuring what is behind them, are turned off and Rik is revealed in that small corner of the studio, behind the camera on my right which has been capturing my right half-profile.
“Fuck me, what a trip!” says Alaia, high-fiving me as she bubbles up out of the sound booth in that noisy black silk dress, and the two of us caper around the studio together.
As a big-stadium performance, this Big Bang climax felt just as electrifying as the climax of the international broadcast of Sound & Vision. It’s a little strange, however, because of course this wasn’t live: there weren’t the tens or hundreds of millions watching in real time around the world; there weren’t the tens or hundreds of thousands watching around the stadium (well, their level of attentiveness was debatable, at best, for Sound & Vision too, I remind myself); there weren’t the New York broadcast crew watching it just a fraction before the TV viewers did; and once again there weren’t even Evelyn and Rik watching it right here in the studio, because he was averting his gaze through the cameras and she was crouching behind me watching Rik’s face and my rear end… Not for the first time, I feel gloriously ignored here.
“Weeks of planning,” says Shigem. “You know, I used to be really into kitchen utensils, but I’ve calmed down about them a bit, in recent years.”
“What a strange town this is,” says Alaia, looking out of the window.
“Yeah, it’s not the kind of boring bland suburbia where I grew up,” says Kim. “It’s interestingly fucked-up instead.”
“It’s fucked-up for sure,” says Shigem, “but in a funny kind of way I love it, although it battered me into the car-wreck I am.”
“You’re not a car-wreck,” says Kim.
“No? Maybe I just look like one: I look in the mirror and I think, ‘What a car-wreck, but I still love you!’”
“You’re beautiful,” says Kim.
“Charmed, I’m sure.”
“You two are going to have a fabulous time living in London,” says Alaia.
“Unless the plane crashes,” says Shigem. “Then we’d probably have less of a good time. Oh well, that’s just a risk we’ll have to take. Who wants to be safe and contrived and always know everything’s going to work out nicely? It’s never too late for a nice little plane-crash, just like it’s never too late to start smoking… Which reminds me, last night Lucan’s Cadillac passed by us. The window was open and Lucan was in the passenger’s seat staring out and he made that sign at me again, even more aggressive than he did on Sunday night”—and here he does a very Shigem version of Lucan’s brutally eloquent self-decapitation gesture—“which has left me fucking stressed.”
His bright brown eyes confirm this fear. “I’m not surprised,” I say; and as if in confirmation of the stress, I only now register that the acne I saw on him last night is considerably worse today. “By the way,” I ask, “why did smoking remind you of Lucan, just then?”
“Because Lucan makes me want to smoke.”
“They should use him in smoking commercials,” says Kim.
“Those would be commercials that only worked on me, though,” says Shigem. “Not that I’d need them, because I’ve got him living here just a few blocks away, making gestures out of Cadillacs wherever I go. I go round a corner and wham—there he is again, in a different Cadillac, making this week’s style of decapitation gesture. So they wouldn’t be very cost-effective commercials. Mr Smoking and Mr Cigarette and all those other rich smoky fucks wouldn’t have that warm glow of money well-spent.”
“I visited Lucan today,” Alaia tells him, “and I gave him a glowing character reference for you, and I swore I saw you myself in Paradise on Sunday night at the exact time the first head would have been taken to Downstairs.”
“Did you? Thank you, Alaia, that was very sweet and brave of you! You’re an absolute doll. How did he react?”
After more cheap pizza and another hour of nattering, the doorbell rings. “That’ll be Evelyn,” I say. “Believe it or not, the three of us are actually going to a party at Lucan’s tonight, though I’m not sure why. Would you like to join us, Shigem?”
“I’ll think I’ll pass, thanks, but give him a big kiss from me and ask him not to kill me, please.”
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