by Erika T. Wurth
(from Buckskin Cocaine)
For some reason it’s the sound of the big, grey van door sliding shut on her face that dusty night in August that I can’t get out of my head. Not that I give a fuck. I mean, I was on speed and coke and that little coked up wannabe actress named Brianna that me and Robert had picked up earlier was screaming in Diné and in English about stupid fucking bitches and did I want any more coke. And then I turned off my phone cause you know what, I figured she shouldn’t follow me anymore. The dumb broad should just go the fuck home to the stupid house in Albuquerque she shared with that other dancer. It was my fault because no matter how much she pushed me away, I was always coming after her when I came to town. And then I acted like a fucking dick. But it was the industry, not me, and besides, she was always calling me a special Indian, and that pissed me the fuck off.
I’d met the goddamn broad a year back when there was some kind of stupid ceremony the Arts School was holding. I went because I was gonna try to find this chick I’d met the night before at a party. It was full of Hollywood Indians, most of them poor as shit and sucking at the teat of LA, but one or two with more money than any of us could ever dream at. Her tribe had a fuckton of money and she was someone who could give that money to me, so that I could film my latest, which I knew was gonna make everyone cry. It was a pretty short about a Nav chick being taken off to boarding school and the special Indians, as Olivia called them, loved the shit outta that shit. Course, my full-length feature about someone accidentally fucking their cousin didn’t make anyone cry. Anyone but me that is.
I was also kinda hoping to get laid, or at least drunk. I was hung-over as fuck and tired too but somehow I always found the energy by the end of the day to start it all over again. The damn thing was at the hotel Santa Fe, which was, like every fucking thing in that town, filled with a bunch of pictures of deer and hawks and other Indian shit.
I was texting the hell outta Robert, but he wasn’t responding. That was the thing with him. He couldn’t party like an animal and get up. I may be a short, fat Nav dude, but I’m an animal. I will take every pill in the room, drink the bottle dry and fuck all night and get up the next day for breakfast with whoever I need to meet with. And it gets me things.
I looked around the room, spotting the cash bar in the corner. Fucking thank God. At half of these shitty things, some self-righteous skin gets in her head that there shouldn’t be alcohol. Fuck that. Though I could see Gary was fucked up already, hovering around the bar and babbling like a newborn. Crazy fucker’s played the dude who’s gonna hack your neck off in more than half of every Hollywood piece of shit. He was swaying in one of his Miami Vice jackets, spilling bourbon all over the dingy grey-carpeted floor, some big-eyed billyganna broad with ten pounds of shitty turquoise around her skinny neck nodding like mad.
Anyway, there was Olivia in the corner, leaning against the yellow wall, drinking a glass of something that looked like whiskey or bourbon or scotch like some character from Mad Men in this bright green dress and I knew I had to get her attention, get her number. I figured she was another goddamn mixed-blood actress, with her long, yellow-brown legs who’d probably try to suck my dick for a part she’d never get because I only cast Navajos, but still.
I was cool. I went over to the table where they were pouring and got myself a shot of Patrón and sat down at one of the banquet tables. I always let people come to me. Olivia was standing around with this goddman Nav poet, Merv. Could never tell if he was gay but everyone loved him. Fucking poets. He was laughing at something Olivia was saying, this big, genuine laugh and I felt even more anxious to get her number. I looked over at Merv to get his attention and nodded. He looked over at me and nodded back. When I kept looking over he sighed, hard, knowing what I wanted. He waved me over with his short, thin fingers.
I took a long drink of Patrón, the silvery-peppery liquid sliding down my throat, turning me on like a light. I set the crystal glass down on the table and looked around. The room smelled like sage and patchouli, which I hated. I sighed. Drank my glass dry. Went in for another and then headed slowly over to Merv, letting people stop me, kiss my ass. She watched me, looking at Merv curiously. He leaned into her light brown shoulder to whisper something and she raised her lovely black eyebrows, laughed a short laugh. I reminded myself to fucking kill Merv when I had the chance. What was this, goddamn Dangerous Liaisons or some shit?
“Hey,” I said to Merv. Olivia watched me, sipped at her drink.
“Hey,” Merv said in that deep, rich tenor of his. Fucker sounded like a Nav Tom Brokaw.
“How’s your girlfriend?” I asked Merv. He hated when people asked about her and I knew it. He narrowed his eyes at me, took a sip at his drink, which was a goddamn pussy ass gin and tonic.
“Good,” he said shortly. He turned to Olivia. “Like I was telling you, this is George. He’s a filmmaker. A great one.”
“Thanks Merv,” I said. “But I’m OK,” I said, watching Olivia. I didn’t want to sound too cocky, though I was already angling for a way to impress her.
“Olivia’s a dancer,” Merv said.
I remember rolling my eyes. I couldn’t help it. There were so many goddamn traditional dancers hanging around I felt like I was wading through a forest of buckskin half the goddamn time.
“Ballet,” she said, as if she could read my mind. She looked down at the long, green skirt of her dress and smoothed it. “Though honestly, I’m too old for it, and my tits have always been too big. Good thing I do other kinds of dance, and can teach.”
“Olivia,” Merv said, laughing and shaking his head. “Dirty.”
“Yeah,” she said. “I got that mouth in graduate school.”
“Sure you did,” he said, shaking his head. “I bet your aunties think you’re a bad one.”
Olivia paused and took a sip of her drink. “I lied. I got my mouth from them.” Merv roared and I tried not to but I couldn’t help it. It was fucking love.
A few hours later, after a long and ridiculous ceremony, where someone presented a very drunk Gary a lute for some reason I can’t even remember, I found myself trapped by this obnoxious Native chick named Lucy. Merv and Olivia had gone for a drink and when I looked up from my phone, there she was, right next to me, panting in my face. I swear to god that broad didn’t breathe. And she was at every event, without fail, her loud, ridiculous bullshit about how fucking Indian she was trailing her like a fart. I remember fantasizing briefly about lighting myself on fire. It took what felt like hours to get away from her, as she was yelling a steady stream of ayyyeees and lame powwow jokes at me without taking a breath. Right before she’d come upon me Merv and Olivia had gone for a drink run and spotting Lucy on their way back, took a major U-turn. I could only watch helplessly while they walked out an hour later, Merv looking back at me and whispering into Olivia’s ear. Fucker. But I had gotten her number and was texting her before she even got out the door. I could see her slip her long hand into the pocket of that bright green dress and look at her phone. She laughed and showed Merv. I winced. I wondered if she would look back. She didn’t. I sighed and finished half of my drink in one gulp and started walking towards the bar, Lucy following me. I figured I’d stick around for one more hour and try to work the crowd, see if Gary Hollywood was into any money. See if he was drunk enough to find a way to get some of that money over to me. See if that billyganna with the pounds of turquoise knew anyone who knew anyone who would give me money. The dumb broad I’d been looking for hadn’t even showed up. But I was never able to break away to talk to Gary, who stumbled out into the night with his usual entourage, not long after Olivia had, yelling about how the night was young and he was thirsty, the arms and front of his pink blazer spotted with scotch. I looked over at the table where he’d been sitting, where amongst the glasses piled around the table and crumbled white napkins was the lute they’d presented him. I shook my head and laughed, and drank the rest of the Patrón.
Lucy had broken away from me when she saw Gary and his entourage leaving, and I could see her trailing him and his groupies, most of them already looking coked out of their minds, one thin, blond broad nodding half heartedly at Lucy as she yelled in her weird Albuquerque almost valley girl accent about some fucking powwow she’d been to recently. Half the reason it had taken me so long to get away from Lucy was because she kept pumping me about where I was going next, watching me watch my phone. I knew we’d probably end up in the same fucking place anyway, but there was no way in hell I was going to make it easy on her.
An hour later, I had just about given up hope on Olivia and was thinking about texting this dumb broad I knew who always answered my texts, no matter how late I texted her. Pretty much lol and where you at? seemed to be the only things she knew how to type into a phone. But she was there no matter what, and gave a great blowjob. Robert had finally gotten up, and we were at the Anodyne in downtown Albuquerque, playing pool with this dude Mark Wishewas, a wannabe filmmaker, wannabe writer and overall lame motherfucker, Lucy eyeing me from a booth in the back like an angry Pueblo cat. It was dark and noisy and it smelled like stale beer. Next to Lucy was some Native dude I didn’t recognize who looked like he should have a wind machine perpetually centered on his hair. He already seemed like he was ready chew his own arm off to get away from her, his face angled down permanently at his phone.
I was taking a shot of Patrón that Mark had bought me when my phone vibrated in my jeans. I put the empty shot glass down on the table and pulled my phone out. It was a text from Olivia. I moved away from the pool table and leaned against the wall. I looked up briefly before I texted Olivia back. Robert was talking emphatically at Mark, who was nodding at Robert like he’d just discovered Buddha was in his goddamn midst. Robert had been going on about Oklahoma, about how great it was. One thing I’ve learned about people from Oklahoma, they love to talk about Oklahoma. Mark, who was also from Oklahoma, was the biggest wannabe kiss-ass I’d ever met. Never did shit on his own. Just attached himself to the next big Indian thing and then talked shit behind their backs. Robert’s movie had been taken to Sundance. And so had mine. But his had done better. Much better. Which made me hate him a little. More than a little. Difference between Robert and me is that he wants to be a special Indian. He’s content to run the circuit. I want out. I want to make money. Robert had just finished his second feature film and when he wasn’t going on about Oklahoma, he was going on about that. Soon it was gonna be about the fucking biscuits his grandmother used to make. If I had to hear about those biscuits, and how normal and simple his life in Oklahoma was one more time, I was going to vomit. I looked down at my phone. Olivia had texted me that she was still in Santa Fe with Merv and some other writers. I texted her back, trying to get her to come to Albuquerque. I wondered why we’d come to Albuquerque. Then I remembered it was because we were staying at the Blue Hotel, which was cheap. I shoved my phone into my jeans and walked up to the bar to order another shot on Mark’s dime because I knew I wasn’t gonna see her that night and I figured I might as well just get fucked up.
I had to go back up to Idaho for some work for a few months, and I nearly forgot about Olivia. It was good money up in Idaho, and a lot of drugs. I shoot commercials up there every chance I get. And there are no fuckin Indians, which is awesome. But the film festival came around, and my new short was up for an award. They were going to put Robert and me up in style, Hotel Santa Fe, free food, the works. I knew pussy and more drugs were in my immediate future. I got on the plane feeling like royalty, sitting in first class like I was Quentin fucking Tarantino, texting Robert until the second I had to shut my phone off. I waited until the drink cart came by, ordered as many Patróns as I could until they cut me off, then I fell asleep. The only thing I hated about the Film Festival was all the Indians. Hoka Hey this, Aho that, lets burn sage this, this is sacred that. What a bunch of shit. These fucking fuckers wouldn’t last two seconds at my parent’s house. And I doubt they spoke more than three words of their own language, just enough to pull off looking like a big, important traditional Indian in front of all the people with money. Fuck. But they were treating me good, like I deserved.
I was over hanging with Robert and some of his visual artist friends at a gallery where their work was showing. We were drinking wine and champagne and there were a ton of girls and the air smelled good and there were already a ton of parties to get to. And then there was Merv and Olivia in the light of the doorway and the world was even brighter. People were wandering in and out, looking at the art, which all seemed like a blur of deer and long grey hair to me.
They spotted me and walked over, Merv frowning and Olivia smiling that funny, secretive smile of hers. She was wearing a short red dress. Red nails. I smiled back, looked away. Thought about getting another drink. Thought about getting her one. Then thought about how uncool that would look.
“Hey George,” Merv said, running his hands through his thick black hair. “Heard you might be here,” he said, frowning.
“Yeah, you know, why the fuck not,” I said, looking at Olivia and then down at my phone. She was still smiling at me curiously.
“So, you here for the film festival?” I asked Merv.
“Yeah. I was given some money for a short, so, I’m screening it later. You… should come,” he said, looking off. I looked over at Olivia.
“You should,” she said. “Free booze.”
“Sure,” I said, trying to sound cool. But I was pissed. Fuckin poet got money for a short, and he isn’t even a filmmaker. This stupid business. I figured I would come though, because I wanted to hang with Olivia, and because I wanted to see this shit.
“Where and what time?” I asked.
“6:00 at the Lensic.”
“I’ll text it to you so you won’t forget,” Olivia said. “But we have to get going. We’re going to meet up with a couple of writers and dancers. And then have an unchoreographed dancing/singing sequence about being between two worlds.”
Merv laughed and I couldn’t help it, so did I.
“Well, good luck with that,” I said.
“Won’t be the same without you,” Olivia said, her long, slanted eyes painted like an old-fashioned Hollywood actresses’. Merv rolled his eyes. I narrowed mine.
They turned and left, Merv whispering something in Olivia’s ear as they went, Olivia laughing. God how I hated that guy. I walked back over to Robert and poured myself another glass of champagne. He lifted his glass, we toasted. I looked back towards the door where Merv and Olivia had exited and drank, long and hard until the glass was empty. And then I poured myself another.
After watching Merv’s short, which was just a bunch of shots of Navajo rugs and landscape with a bunch of color splashed in here and there, I convinced Olivia to come to a party with me. Merv had sighed and looked at her, but she had shrugged and said they should do it. It was a crazy party, Hollywood Indians everywhere, and though I needed to make the rounds, I ended up talking with Olivia the whole night, Merv mostly silent, asking if she was ready to go every time he spoke. She was funny, mean and I wanted to bone her something serious. I tried like hell to get her back to the hotel with me that night, but her goddamn daddy Merv wasn’t letting it happen. So I told her that I’d be back in town in a few weeks to work on a collaboration with a friend, and did she have a couch I could crash on. Merv rolled his eyes so hard I thought they were gonna pop outta his giant Nav head but Olivia said sure. She said she had a roommate but that I wouldn’t be the first artist to crash on her couch. I just knew I’d make it to her bed by the first night.
Two weeks later we were watching movies at her place. I asked her if she got high. She said yes. And we smoked out with her roommate until the roommate went to bed. I was sure I was in, but around midnight Olivia handed me a towel and said she had to go to bed. I whined for her to stay up, but she said she had ballet early the next morning. She smiled and told me to sleep well. “Sure,” I said. I was bitter as hell. For the next couple of nights I worked on her, showed her my favorite movies, showed her my movie, talked to her like I was her new best friend, but every night she’d go to bed around midnight, every night she left me tossing and turning on their faux-leather couch, the old pink My Little Pony sheets coming off at the edges in the middle of the night.
By the time I left for home, I was frustrated as hell. Hated her a little. And I was out of money and out of work. The shit I’d done with my friend wasn’t going to generate any money, and it looked like except for a few stupid Indian gigs, my short wasn’t doing that well. This fucking industry.
I went home for a few months, lived with my parents, carried wood, smoked out with my cousins, had a couple of ceremonies and at least got away from the fucking Indians for a while. My phone died, not that it would’ve worked that well where I was but also, I didn’t have the money to pay the bills. And then something broke. It always broke. And I knew I was on my way all the way to the top this time, I was sure of it. Some backers for the feature length I’d been trying to get money for came out of the woodworks, a bunch of crazy fuckers from Dubai. And they wanted to meet up in LA. Were gonna fly me out and treat me like I deserved to be treated. I was excited. And then a little bit of work rolled in from Albuquerque and I knew I was set.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Olivia was saying. “My gig is about to end at the school, and they’re not sure they’re going to need me at the studio downtown anymore.” We were sitting in her living room and drinking.
“I know that story,” I said. I had just told her about my meeting in LA. It had gone well. Turned out some fucking son of a cousin of the King of Dubai had seen the one Indian movie that everyone’s seen, Barry Four Voice’s fucking movie, and loved it. Christ. But it worked in my favor, so what the fuck.
“I thought you had a permanent gig at the Arts School?” I asked.
“No. I just adjunct. But the economy is going bad. And it’s always bad in New Mexico. I don’t know how long I can stay here.” She sighed and took a long drink of the cheap red wine we’d bought at the Liquor store downtown.
“Do you mind if I smoke? I’ll open the window.” She asked.
“Sometimes. When I’m sad.”
She lit a camel up and the smell of smoke filled the small house. Her roommate was nowhere to be found. I didn’t ask. I’d gone out with Robert that day and we’d been playing pool at the Anodyne when she’d come in, alone. She was drinking in the corner when she saw me and waved. I had motioned for her to come over.
“I’m sick of living like this,” she said, her long brown eyes turning on me with too much inside them.
“It’s the life of an artist,” I said, sighing wearily. I wondered if we were going to have sex, finally, for fuck’s sake.
“Yeah, but I’m thirty. I’m a dancer. In many ways, my professional career is over. Yours is just beginning,” she tucked her long legs under her and shifted in her yellow dress.
“Well, there are other things,” I said.
She frowned and took another puff, tapped her stinky cigarette on her thrift store looking ashtray. It was white with gold edges. It reminded me of my auntie.
“What would those things be?”
“Sex,” I said.
“Yes, there is that,” she said. She smashed her cigarette out into the ashtray, closed the window, and drank the last of the wine. “There is that,” she whispered like a ghost, and came to me.
For all of her annoying sadness, she was funny and good in the sack. So for a few days, I stayed with her and she would go off to work and I would go off to work and then we’d meet up at her place at night. Robert had been texting me every night, asking me to come out, and telling me that I was getting weak. Pussy whipped. I told him at least I was getting pussy, but that excuse was growing old, and besides, she really was annoying with all of her complaining and smoking. I figured I’d get out for good the next day. Hang with Robert. Find some new pussy. Another long-legged mixed-blood actress to suck my dick. One that didn’t smoke. Or talk.
“So, I’m gonna head out,” I said. She’d come home after me, looking tired. She had immediately sat down on her sagging couch and shook a cigarette out of her pack and lit up. She hadn’t even bothered to open the window. She looked up and nodded.
“Yeah. I really should get going,” I said, my old blue duffle bag in my hands.
She looked up at me with those eyes that went in too deeply and smiled. “Uh-huh,” she said and I felt so much anger. She didn’t even seem to care where I was going, who I was going with.
“Really have some work to do.”
I sighed, and waved at the smoke, hoping she’d at least crack a window, but she didn’t move from her spot on the couch. She was still in her leotard, her legs delicately tucked under her.
I finished packing and zipped my bag up loudly. I headed towards the door and turned around.
“I’ll… see you around.”
“Sure. Call me.”
“You want me to call you?”
She pulled on her cigarette and got up. I thought she was going to come over to me, but she went over to the window and opened it. She sat back down.
“Look, I get it.”
She sighed and lit another cigarette before the other one had even gone out. She pulled at the dying cigarette deeply and then placed it in the ashtray, its smoke curling up and into the room, her new cigarette dangling from her lips.
“You’re a party guy, George. You’re nobody’s boyfriend.”
I was silent for a minute. Then, “Well, yeah. Glad you get that.”
“But sure, if you want to call me, call me. That would be fun.”
“Fun,” I echoed. I thought back to a few parties ago. I’d been standing in the corner when this older lady, all done up with huge tits had come over with two drinks in her hands. The brown liquor swirled in the glasses as she swayed drunkenly. She’d shoved one in my face and said, I’ve heard about you. I’d said, You have? She’d downed her drink in one long gulp, put the glass down on the table next to her, wobbled back up, belched and pushed her tits into me. Yeah, I have. Now fuck me.
Olivia took a drag off of her cigarette. There was only one light on in the living room, and it was grey outside. The light was shining on her neck, and it made it glow in this strange, golden way.
“You know, I loved someone once.”
I was silent. I began to walk towards the door. I turned, thought to say something.
“And?” I said, finally.
“And he died on a mountain. He was an idiot. Always doing shit he shouldn’t.”
I opened the door and left. As I walked towards my car, I promised myself I would never text that crazy fucking broad again.
I was hanging at the Anodyne with Robert when she texted me. I put the phone back in my pocket. I took it out. I texted her back. She came in about fifteen minutes later, drunk. She sat down next to me and Robert. Robert rolled his eyes and looked at his phone. So did I.
“What’s up,” I said, trying to sound bored and tired.
I looked down at my phone and she sighed and went up to the bar to get a drink. I watched her.
“When are you going to get rid of her?” Robert asked.
“Really. There are so many other women out there.”
I snorted. “It’s not like she’s the only one I sleep with,” I said.
“Whatever man,” Robert said. “You’re a pussy.”
She came back over with a glass of red wine and sat down, tucking her short, pink dress underneath her. She drank from the glass and looked around. Robert and I started talking about his next film, and where he was hoping it would get in. Olivia sighed and looked at the both of us. Finished her glass.
“Well, see you later,” she said, getting up. Robert said nothing. I nodded. I watched her make her way through the bar, the white and Indian bodies parting for her as she went. I could see her pull a pack of Camel Lights out of her pocket before she descended the stairs.
A few hours later I was so fucking drunk I thought I was going to pass out in the old leather booth. Robert was gone and I hadn’t even realized that he’d left. Relief flooded through me when I finally did realize that he had. I dug my phone out of the pocket of my jeans and texted Olivia. She told me to come over. It was a good thing she lived a few minutes away by foot, because I was beyond too drunk to drive, though I was weaving something serious the whole way, downtown Albuquerque looking like something out of a Dalí. Her house was an old adobe house, with iron bars in place of a screen door. I knocked and a few minutes later, she was there, in a short, baby blue nightgown. She frowned and I came in and tried to sound funny, tried to sound sober, but she just took me by my hand and led me to the bedroom. She pulled my shoes off, my clothes, until finally I was naked as a child. She smoothed my hair. Brought me water. I passed out in her arms. A few hours later I woke up. I looked over and saw that Olivia was still asleep. She was beautiful. I woke her up and led her outside, lay her in the grass, which seemed so soft. It was cold and she seemed afraid. I murmured to her about seeing stars as a kid on the rez, how I missed that. How I loved it back home. How I hated it back home. She nodded and we breathed together and I felt something terrifying there, laying in the grass. Something I couldn’t understand. It filled me with emptiness. After we were done, we lay there for a while before we went back inside, looking up at the stars, neither of us talking.
The next morning my head was pounding like a motherfucker, and all I wanted was out. When Olivia stirred, I asked her for painkillers and water. We got up and I told her that I had to get going. She nodded. I showered, put my clothes on. Looked at her. She was sitting on a chair in the corner in the light, smoking.
“See you around,” she said.
“Yeah. I mean. I love somebody too,” I said.
“Well, I went to visit this girl I used to know in Durango. She’s Ponca. And you know what… I love her.”
“Bye, George,” she said, and I opened the door and walked out into the light. It seemed to fill everything up.
I saw her once after that in Santa Fe, all fucked up. Walking down San Francisco with a couple of friends in the snow at night, laughing, her breath turning to ice. She was wearing these big orange boots and a little wool dress and I remember watching her go, the sound of her echoing off the goddamn adobe buildings until she was gone. I was with Robert and some other guys, so I pretended I hadn’t seen her. I was there for some project, I don’t even remember what it was. But I saw her in Evangelo’s later that night, my goddamn stupid weak heart filling with all of it, and it was on. I couldn’t help it. I started chasing her again. And then telling the stupid broad to get lost, all while she blew smoke in my face and laughed. And then I ended up in Idaho again for a long time. And by the time I got back to New Mexico, she was gone. Every time I would get rotten drunk I’d text her. But she never answered. Heard from a couple of people that she’d taken a permanent gig at a University in the Midwest. It doesn’t matter. There are so many where she comes from. And it’s the industry, I told her that. Now I’m working on a new project and I need money for it but fuck it, I know my break is coming. And she smoked too much anyway, the goddamn stupid broad.
ERIKA T. WURTH’S publications include a novel, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend, two collections of poetry and a collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine. Her novel You Who Enter Here is forthcoming from SUNY. A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Boulevard, Drunken Boat, The Writer’s Chronicle, Waxwing and The Kenyon Review. She is represented by Peter Steinberg. She is Apache/Chickasaw/Cherokee and was raised outside of Denver.