Willa – Present
In our vehicles on the drive back, I worry if Officer Smelly will alert the paps of our whereabouts. The paparazzi rarely pursue us now because they don’t know where we are. They pursued us before. When Niky was there, but didn’t find the two older ordinary women that Hollywood whiz and dish Nikolas West fell head over heels in love with interesting. That is, until he was murdered. Six years his senior and not the least bit glamorous, neither Ali nor I fit the it girl standards. They were as confused and fascinated at our relationship as their readers. Some even repelled, but whatever gets the hits and brings in the money.
With me, I barely use social media, anymore; I’m esoteric and dusty, unapproachable and my bitch face is always on and working perfectly; my clothes are unbranded and plain, cheap and my body is “average and pudgy” as one article described me after my five-foot-seven-inch 135 pound pale frame was photographed on Venice Beach in a bikini; I seldom wore makeup and often hid my green eyes behind brown glasses and blonde hair under a hat masking a “common comeliness” from one journo. I hardly ever showed up at Nik’s awards or premiers especially not in heels or designer gowns, but in Target dresses and clothes designed by ‘unknown’ women or LGBTQ artist pals that Ali supplied us both with; and I didn’t like dogs, babies, or Taylor Swift music and had absolutely no intention of ever marrying and settling down, even if I had the hottest catch in La La Land. They thought that Nikolas West would eventually tire of us and move on; that he’d eventually fall for a twenty-year-old lithe prodigy that pandered to the patriarchy newly arrived and unmolested in tinseltown. Eventually.
Apparently, Nik and I were either always getting married or trying to get pregnant or breaking up, so sayeth the tabloids; attempting to create melodrama where none existed all the while dismissing Ali’s part in our relationship dropping an ugly transphobic shade that really wasn’t so nuanced. Although, they did find Alison more compelling; their coded bigotry and racism towards her written to appropriate and exploit, not to inform. The three of us together were gold—they loved getting threesome PDA shots—I was the least liked of all three. Ali and I were continually being pitted against the other; ‘cat fights’ and other melodramatic sexist headers where we supposedly fought over Nik like some discounted Prada bag. Nik ignored them—mostly. He found the paps lack of interest in us comical telling me and Alison that we were the most fascinating and lovely creatures he’d ever met and he thought Hollywood and the rest of the country delusional. Nonetheless, this was his gain and he didn’t want to share us anyways, he said. He seemed to forget that when he was on his press junkets and interviews calling us out by name and as the loves of his life many times ceaselessly regaling journos on our personalities and many witty adventures. When the paps or trades would come around though, Alison and I would deign to answer in banal monosyllabic platitudes boring and aggravating the fuck out of them by turning to political topics like civil rights and feminism—also known as identity politics to white males; the irony of that still makes my eyes roll. They’d go away thinking Niky West was one hell of a charmer and storyteller, till when yet another tried and failed. It was a challenge for us: let’s see how dull we can be about ourselves this time while simultaneously lifting our brothers and sisters up. All three of us thought long and hard about those convos, challenging every journo move with one of our own and sometimes came away laughing so hard from the hilarity of it.
A wave of nostalgia moves through me thinking of those times. I realize we had a privileged platform we should’ve taken far more seriously and if we had, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation. Then again, perhaps all this would’ve eventually come sooner rather than when it did. Was all this inevitable?
There was a time immediately after Niky’s death that journos wouldn’t leave any of us be to deal with our grief. When our faces sensationalized morbid and malicious headlines and crash photos all for the sake of money and gossip. When millions across the world mourned his death and wished to share in our heartache. The romanticization and tragedy of the Nikolas West murder; the blond haired, blue eyed rich white boy that subverted the quintessential narrative. There was drama there and a story; still is, but no one wants to reveal the legitimate account—the real story behind the death of Nikolas West and the conspiratorial and political intrigue and mystery surrounding it. A few may’ve at one time been willing and ready to sacrifice and pursue the unfolding saga, but it was immediately swept up in the other cataclysm of chaos that was happening presently and had been happening since all the shit began to erode around us. Reddit has a large and active subreddit dedicated to Niky’s death. YouTube videos went viral after it happened, but have mysteriously disappeared or faded black only to be endlessly reposted and removed again. Facebook pages mourning his death are still active; theories vanish as quickly as they’re posted and fake stories abound. The Twitter hashtag #Justice4Niky occasionally trends worldwide. The case remains unsolved publicly; privately we know the story. Or, rather, some of us do. Some of us are still in the dark on the specifics.
Will there ever be justice for Nikolas West?
The West’s absconded with us to parts unknown moving when our locale was revealed. This is ultimately where we’ve landed for the past several months, hiding, numb with grief, and dealing with the aftermath of a loss we still cannot confront, but the confrontation is there everyday in every way taunting us like a bully, reveling in our pain. Can you ever get over this kind of trauma? No, you learn to live with it and move forward. Use it as a catalyst. How? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.
“Where’s your home, Jack?” I ask then glance over at him with an apologetic smile wondering if he misinterpreted my question. He catches my glance and grins. “I didn’t mean…”
“I know what you meant. New York City is where my family’s from, but they’re gone now. My pops was a Syrian expat and immigrant, first generation American. Home now is in New Orleans. The times I get back, that is.”
“Crawfish, beignets and Mardi Gras. I love New Oar-linz.”
“I have a weakness for Cajun food and women,” he says flashing a bashful smile.
A few more minutes pass before I ask the question: “Were you with him? That day? On the ground?”
Jack’s face remains blank. I see a quick glance between him and Jess in the rear view mirror.
He shakes his head. “No, I was…somewhere else. On assignment.”
Questions pop into my head and I let them fly by unpursued. I’ve little energy to chase the answers. I don’t even know if I wanna know the answers.
© 2018 Pamela Gay Mullins