I wanted to cancel my trip, but that’s exactly what he wanted so he could be with his side piece. I didn’t want to be the dramatic, insecure girlfriend, but I couldn’t understand what was so bad about wanting to have a road trip with me instead of his friends.
Below you’ll find the second chapter of Ian Williams’s fictional story, “I Want It All. I Want It Now,” from our Summer 2019 issue. To read from the beginning, click here.
You followed him to her house? Ella whispered.
I didn’t follow him. I saw him get on his bike and ride off. Somewhere.
Right, so how do you know he went to her house?
Granted. There were a few holes in my story.
My father entered. I abruptly changed the subject.
Regular volume. You’ve got enough makeup here for a year!
Working reception while he and his assistant were giving shots to kittens in the back, I ran my hand through her bag of cosmetics, picking out the new Soul on Fire palette from Watier x FASHION.
Oh, there’s more in the car. Ella put on her vocal fry voice. It was guaranteed to drive my father away like garlic on a vampire. I’m gonna turn you into a rocker chick. Like Kate Moss meets Courtney Love meets Pink meets Pink meets—
Do me now.
Duh. Listen to this girl. You can’t wear heroin chic to the office. That’s crazy talk.
My father left. We went back to whispering.
Where else would he go? I said.
I don’t know if he’s cheating or not. Ella smelled like Gucci Bloom. No, it was Paris-Riviera from Chanel. She continued, All’s I know is that he has a history.
She held a tube of dark lipstick to her nose, then mine.
You are not doing this to impress him? she asked.
Of course not.
Why are you, then?
My father came in. I raised the volume.
Your edges are on fleek. I touched Ella’s temples. Her father is from Barbados. You’re like Meghan Markle meets Rihanna meets Cardi B meets—
Stop it. You’re embarrassing me, Ella said, but she beckoned for more.
FKA Twigs meets Radhika Nair meets Amal Clooney. I made a big circle around her face with my open palm. You’re like the love child of all that fierceness.
My father shook his head and left. He called these “estrogen conversations.” But as far as I could tell, he and his girlfriend spent a lot of time talking about my 25-year-old uterus.
Ella and I went back to whispering.
I said, Even if he is cheating, I want him to uncheat.
You want him back.
My father called me from the other side of the door. Ella and I looked toward his voice.
You need to work—
I need to work on my feminism—I know, I know.
Grover was a 12-year-old basset hound with arthritis so severe his owners had to carry him everywhere, even around the house. That made him obese.
He lifted his eyes toward me. I brushed the top of his head. My father filled the syringe.
Grover, I said sweetly. I held a dog treat to his mouth.
As he was chewing, my father injected him. He tensed, then heaved a big floppy sigh, and I took him down to the freezer.
Right on schedule, a few days before the festival, Hudson informed me that we would not be driving together. He was going to ride with the band.
Do you even want me there? I asked.
Of course I want you there. But it’d be weird to have you in the van with the guys. He shook his head. That Yoko Ono vibe has killed many a band. We’ll hang out in Rock Creek.
I wanted (it all and I wanted it now) to cancel my trip, but that’s exactly what he wanted so he could be with his side piece. I didn’t want to be the dramatic, insecure girlfriend, but I couldn’t understand what was so bad about wanting to have a road trip with me instead of his friends. Given the same situation, I’d choose to be with him over 90—over 80, over 75—per cent of my friends. Male friendships mystified me. Guys would never wash each other’s hair. What did they talk about? Sick beats, squats, draft picks, girls they’d bang, bro, brah, bro. Hudson knew very little about the people he called his friends.
Hudson pulled me right to him, nose to nose.
Plus, Doug just broke up with his girlfriend. He’s pretty raw. He doesn’t need to see us all lovey-dovey.
Lovey-dovey. I was being manipulated. I knew it. We had not been lovey-dovey in a while. A few days before Christmas, we went shopping and he got down on one knee and proposed to me in H&M. I clapped my hand over my mouth. People clapped. We kissed theatrically. Then we kept doing it all evening. Knee, mouth, clap, kiss. Knee, mouth, clap, kiss. Exactly eight times across Vancouver, we did it. Now, he still smelled like Christmas—Santal 33. I would sometimes sneak a little from his bottle and put it on the bone of my wrist.
We need to catcall women freely, Hudson said.
You could ride up with Ella. Bring Ella.
He liked seeing us together. Every time I told him that I had spent the night at Ella’s place, he went away to his fantasy place for a second, delaying his ability to respond, before coming back with, Oh yeah? or She good?
According to Google Maps, the festival was five hours, eight minutes from Vancouver. Ella and I took turns driving.
While I drove, she read to me from Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s new book, Fleishman Is in Trouble. While she drove, I read to her from the summer issue of FASHION. There was a story in there about a cheating boyfriend. We sang along to Kacey Musgraves on Spotify and listened to some Caliphate podcasts. We posted selfies of our hair blowing. We took pee breaks and ate SunChips and grapes and, all glory to Alison Bechdel, we didn’t talk about men at all.
Hudson’s band, The Mountains, was playing on the B-stage. The lead singer strutted onstage, ignoring the crowd; then Hudson clicked his drumsticks together four times and a wall of sound hit us. The world smelled like pine.
During the set, Ella and I leaned back on our elbows with our shirts tied in a knot around our midsection. Wearing beads. I wove a garland for her hair. She was surprised that I knew the name of the flowers—not a useful skill, I thought. I didn’t have the social justice, activist language that she did. She always knew the right side of an issue to be on, and I could front it, I could fake it, I could follow her lead.
Hudson was a good-looking man. Shaggy, long hair, sometimes partially tied up, shaved sides, a few strands falling into his face when he leaned over the drum set. Not quite the MacBook-wielding guy from Risk Management. Even then, Ella could see traces of a rock star. He sat with his legs open wide, a habit from playing drums, jeans ripped at the knees, thick thighs. He let her paint his nails one time. On the surface, Ella was testing his openness (he passed), but when I did it, I was really trying to make him less desirable to other women before a gig. He said he would let me paint his nails as long as he could choose the colour. He chose black. For another out-of-town gig, I put eyeliner and mascara on him and said he looked hot—bought him a black Queen T-shirt and silver metal chains. He went to the show like he was in a Good Charlotte cover band.
Apparently there was a famous person at the festival. Everyone was being polite-vigilant in case they happened to be talking to the famous person and didn’t know it. It’s Dolly, Ella said. Nicki’s doing folk music now, I said.
Hudson liked to introduce me as his girlfriend the model if he was talking to a guy or a woman he wasn’t interested in. If he was talking to another hot girl while I was around (always approach the hottest girl in the room first), he avoided an introduction and eventually said, simply, This is Odile.
After he came offstage, I went to see him. He was sweaty, crushing a bottle of water into his mouth. His shirt was stuffed into his back pocket. I could see the band of his underwear over his jeans—the belt I bought for him. There was a woman talking to him. Not Dolly from the grocery store, but she was exuding availability—slinky, gyrating ever so slightly to the music in the background.
The techie-cum-bouncer wouldn’t let me through.
He said, Expensive equipment, stuff gets stolen and turns up on Craigslist. We’re tight with security this year. I could tell him you’re looking for him. What’s your name?
He’s right there. I pointed. Hudson was walking away with the woman.
What’s your name?
He’s literally standing in front of us.
Rules are rules. What’s your name?
His girlfriend, I said.
The sound tech cleared his throat. He turned his attention to Ella. Have we met? Did we hook up last year?
Trust me, Ella said. You’d remember if we did.
He stepped toward her. I put a hand on his chest.
You shot your shot, bro. Security’s tight this year.
There was an impromptu party that night. I showed up, took a puff of someone’s joint, danced for a bit, but I wasn’t feeling it. I hadn’t seen Hudson since the THOT.
I left Ella at the party and walked back to the car. I wanted to remove my makeup and go to sleep.
I checked my phone. No messages. I had a very early high school feeling. Abandonment meet FOMO.
I wasn’t always hot. I was cute as a kid, then pretty as a girl, then downgraded to OK in middle school, then fell off the attractive graph during the first part of high school. Never beautiful, never elegant. Then, in the summer between grades 10 and 11, I spiked from being OK to being hot. At the end of Grade 10, I was headline gossip because a boy who felt me up said my nipples were flat and weird like an amoeba. So that summer, as part of a revenge strategy, I gave myself a thorough beauty education with the same dedication I would give to a science fair project. I travelled around with my mom for Fashion Television, got fit, made skinny friends—Americans, Italians—posted envy on Facebook, filtered myself into oblivion. In September, I subbed for a model in a New York runway show. Later that month, I showed up for Grade 11 with long dirty-blond hair under a trucker hat—thigh gap, pronounced pelvic bones over my low-rise skinny jeans—and became unmistakably the hottest girl in Grade 11. The amoeboob scandal had messed me up until this year. I wish I could say that I came to love myself, that I had the confidence of Angelina Jolie, that I told Hudson and he kissed the amoebas. But no, I got the irregularities patched with a nipple tattoo in the same place where Ella got laser hair removal. Best money I ever spent. (Well, except for Jimmy Choos on sale in London.)
My phone vibrated.
Back in my car, I reclined the seat and tried to go to sleep. It was sweltering, but if I put the windows down, mosquitoes would come in. Mosquitoes or a killer.
I checked my phone again. One text.
Just the one text from Ella. That was all.
Late in the night, a man banged on my window. In that long, alarming second, I reached around myself for a weapon, tried to cover myself, felt around for my phone. I couldn’t see his face at first because he was shining a cellphone flashlight in my face.
Odile, he said.
He knocked on the glass again. Opening the door was easier than lowering the window.
Why are you sleeping here? He was drunk. I have a bed for us back at artists’ hospitality.
He could have texted that easily. I didn’t know what to make of his thoughtlessness, but at least he had staggered through the night to find me. I didn’t want to sleep in the car, and I didn’t want to be with him. I didn’t want to be driving through the South on a tour bus with him and his band, but I didn’t want to be alone on a rainy night while he called me from a pay phone in Nashville either, even if he was calling to say I love you, darlin’. I want it all and I— You can’t always get what you wa-ant.
I should stay here, I said. In case Ella gets back.
Hudson turned the display of his phone toward me. It was 3:48.
Sorry to break it to you, but your girlfriend’s getting laid. He pulled me out of the car and locked the door with the remote. No girlfriend of mine is going to spend the night in a car in the middle of the forest.
So he took me to a “teepee.” Inside, there were hay bales and guys passed out on sleeping bags. He pulled me down on his sleeping bag and curled up, pressed his toes up against my hips, exactly like the image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono on Rolling Stone. He wrapped his arm around my head. Then he baby talked me: You thought I was going to leave you all alone, such a silly, hiding from me, all night I’ve been going crazy, wondering, only the best for my girl.
He reached under my dress.
Too many people here, I said.
It’s OK. It’s all good. He rolled a leg on me. We can start an orgy.
He kissed me.
They’ll catch on.
He smelled boozy and weedy and sweaty—but also like his place, like the window was open and it was late fall and there were no other women in the world. And we didn’t need to check who liked our posts or followed us back, so long as we were peeling avocados together, flossing our bottom teeth together, squirting contact solution into our cases together. It’s not his kind of music, but one night he sang me an acoustic cover of Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World).” Slowly. Quietly. Switched up the lyrics into a promise.
Tonight, he was so drunk I could easily push him off. He was so drunk that he might have thought we had sex because he flopped onto his back contentedly and I could hear him breathing deeply within minutes. I looked at the top cone of the teepee. It looked like the inside of a breast.
I woke up after Hudson. I saw him outside the flap of the teepee—in his cowboy boots, shirt off, little arch of back like Iggy Pop—talking to the vocalist from another band.
I crawled toward them. Vocals was in the middle of a story that involved donkey-punching an imaginary girl, and Hudson was karate-chopping the air like he was giving a massage.
When Hudson saw me, he stopped the conversation with a loud, There she is. He took me under one arm and kissed the top of my head. Lovey, meet dovey.
What’s going on? I asked.
But Vocals spilled: Some girl OD’d last night.
Wow. I yawned. Public relations nightmare, the M.B.A. in me said.
They looked at each other.
I didn’t think to ask who until that moment when I saw them exchange looks.
Wait, I said. Is it Ella?
I crawled back into the teepee for my phone.
They’re not saying who it is, Vocals said.
It’s not Ella, Hudson said.
I patted down the bags and blankets for my phone. No messages from her.
That tech guy, what’s his number?
They’ve got sausages at breakfast. Hudson tried to take the phone out of my hand. It’s not her, Odile. She’s probably back at your car.
She would’ve texted.
Maybe her battery died, he said.
Let’s go, I said.
He didn’t move.
A bandmate said, We’re meeting the others in 10 minutes, bro.
Why don’t you check the car? Hudson said. And I’ll go to the clinic, find out who it is.
Sure, I said. You’re totally gonna do that, Prince Charming.
Ella was not in, near or under the car.
I ran back toward the clinic, among raised roots and rocks. Through the trees, a female voice in the speakers, obscured by the weather, sang, “In the arms of the angels, far away from here.”
I found Ella on a cot in the medic cabin. Unattended. A single fan was blowing on her. The IV that should have been in her veins was lying on the floor next to a bedpan.
I got her into the back seat of my car, drove her to a proper emergency room, then all the way back to Vancouver, without sending or replying to Hudson’s texts.
Odile’s story isn’t over yet. Can her relationship with Hudson recover and how will Odile cope when work takes her to far-off places? See how it all pans out in Chapter Three and follow @the.real.odile on Instagram for real-time updates.