Ian Williams’s “I Want It All. I Want It Now.” Chapter 3: Broke Up, Broken Up
I felt like he had communed with my mother and she had given me over to him. Or he had taken me over. I was on his body forever.
Below you’ll find the third 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.
Late summer, Ella took me to the airport. Together we lifted my bags onto the scale to be weighed. I’d been booked for a lot of work that summer: an ad campaign for a beauty brand in Toronto, a fitness spot on TV in Montreal and a fashion shoot in Mexico.
Ella said, I’ll keep an eye on your druggie boyfriend.
She still called Hudson my boyfriend, even though we’d had a conscious uncoupling after the music festival. No one’s taking minutes, but, for the record, I’d consciously uncoupled him and not the other way around.
He’s not a druggie. I felt the need to defend him. I had bought him a Sackville & Co. gold grinder for his weed. I said, A little pot does not a druggie make.
We’d had this conversation before. I had never seen Hudson use anything more than a little pot, and, even so, there was a difference between trying a drug and being an addict. He might have tried something. I tried cocaine in high school. I wasn’t an addict.
Ella tilted her head. Just high school?
Don’t look at me like that.
She shook her head. I caught a whiff of perfume.
I should be worried about you, I said. You’re the one who was on friggin’ methadone.
Naloxone, I repeated. She had projected her problem on him. I needed a break from them both.
I have something for you, Ella said.
She rooted around in her Gucci bag until she found a row of condoms.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but he cheated on you with more than one woman. Ella made a tourniquet around my arm by tying two condoms together. As she was working, she listed names: Molly, Roxie, Aunt Hazel, Mandy, Kitty.
Ella drummed the inside of my elbow as if searching for a vein. Then she pushed me toward the security area with the condoms tied around my arm.
According to Instagram, Hudson got a tattoo. It was on his ribs—about the size of a passport photo. Very discreet. If he squeezed his arm against his torso, he’d cover it up. It was still red in the image. Caps. Serif font.
Seeing it on his body, I felt like he had communed with my mother and she had given me over to him. Or he had taken me over. I was on his body forever. The words weren’t beads I borrowed from Ella’s closet.
Hudson used to describe Sephora as the makeup version of the Apple store: brightly lit, clerks everywhere, an air of sterility, futuristic, clean to the point of being antiseptic.
I was sitting on a stool in the Bite Beauty section wearing all black, knees together, hair pulled back. I was one of 15 models hired for a one-day social media campaign. Women had been invited into the store to get their makeup done and have the chance to win a modelling contract. Each woman would sit next to a model while a clerk did her makeup similar to that model’s; then Sephora would snap some photos, post them on Instagram and ask people to guess who the model was. It was a Dove kind of idea—celebrating the beauty of ordinary women.
The woman on the stool in front of me was more than 10 years older than me. I’d say she was 37. We sat facing each other like reflections. My future self. Her past. Pale. Blunt nose. Faint eyebrows, like a Dutch portrait. Overall, she was austere and well maintained but starting to finely crack.
Her manners were European. She said, You are one of those challenging models.
Is that good? I asked.
Unconventional. She had three stripes of tester lipstick on her hand. The middle one looked the best on her.
I was starting to get offended.
Where you’re pretty if you have one ugly feature.
Oh. I said nothing about her nose. Just, Oh.
I guess that’s what sells, she said, looking into my eyes. She was feeling the boldness of becoming beautiful. Ella would describe her face as aristocratic.
Are you a student? she asked.
In Vancouver, I said. I wanted to impress her. Grad student. M.B.A.
Which is your primary identity?
Slowly. Are you a student or are you a model?
Both. (I want it all, and I want it now.)
Or are you someone’s girlfriend?
I looked at her left hand. She had a diamond. She was one of those women who would be cruel to other aspiring women in her company. Worse to women than to men.
I don’t often feel teary, but my mother’s birthday was coming up (always a difficult day), and Hudson had posted that IG photo a few days ago; plus I was worried about whether or not I was toned enough for Montreal in a few days, plus it was high summer and I was—I’ll admit—lonely under my sunglasses, and now this ice queen was stabbing her pick into my heart.
I couldn’t wet my makeup. I said, You look like a lawyer.
Young love, she said. Caustic. She smiled a little. Squinted. You’re not going to be a challenging model forever.
I’m going to need you to stop talking now, the clerk said to the woman to save me.
Lawyer, she mouthed and touched her large nose.
Muldoon, the Beagle
But things got worse. A few days after Sephora, I had just slathered on sunscreen and was biking sprints through The 6, along Lake Ontario, when my father called.
He was putting down Muldoon, a black and white beagle with a coat so shiny it appeared metallic.
He just wanted to say goodbye, my dad said.
I had known Muldoon his whole life. His owners—the coolest, sweetest people—were hardcore punk rockers who had paid me to dog-sit as a kid.
My dad turned on the video. There was Muldoon. His ears were flopped forward like two leaves at the side of his head. When he heard my voice, he sniffed the screen. His eyes were noble.
I told Muldoon about Doggy Heaven. About my mom. He blinked slowly.
My dad said his girlfriend was spending the week with him. Then he hung up. Or, he thought he did. I watched my screen go black as he put his phone face down on the counter. Our phones were still connected.
I could hear the moment Muldoon died. I heard shuffling, then muffled voices, then silence, then a shift in the silence—like the hum of the AC going off.
Mom would have been 60 today. Happy B-day, Ma! On her last birthday before she died of breast cancer, I got out all of her Fashion Television tapes and we curled up on my parents’ bed and watched hours and hours of Jeanne Beker, the synth-pop theme song, fashion weeks, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista, Milan, haute couture.
It was my present to her—even if she slept through many of them with a silk scarf on her head.
In Montreal, I was a fitness model for a morning lifestyle show. Pretty much, I was the equivalent of a backup dancer (that’s what Hudson would call me) for the demo of an Instagram workout video.
I powered through some sit-ups backstage and planked. Club pump. The male model did some push-ups and sprints up and down the hallway; then he patted himself dry and squeezed Gatorade into his mouth. Good energy, this guy Denis. He double high-fived me, low and high.
You got this, he said. Cute little French accent.
Cute little everything.
I unzipped my hoodie. Denis the hottie did some lunges to show off his quads. I did some cat-cow stretches. The audience applauded. We jogged onstage.
Denis adjusted his shorts partway through the segment. He was trying to manage his boner.
At the end of the segment, he ran up to me from behind and lifted me off the ground.
You were amazing, he said.
We followed each other on Instagram.
We had lunch after the segment, and lunch turned into a walk, which turned into dinner. Denis was a big talker. A happy, friendly spaniel. A simple man who needed simple adjectives. So transparent I could see through his face into his brain. He went to bed early, woke up early, went for a morning run, peeled his clothes off at the door and showered, made himself a paleo or keto breakfast, juiced kale and ginger for a midday boost.
So, after dinner, we went to bed early together, woke up early together, went for a morning run together, peeled our clothes off at the door and showered together, made ourselves a paleo or keto breakfast together, juiced kale and ginger for a midday boost together. Times eight days.
I imagined this was what marriage would feel like: Denis parting the curtains in the morning. Denis parting his hair. Denis high-fiving me over laundry. Denis planning ski trips. Denis cuddling with the dog. Olympic sex. Denis to the death.
As he was loading my luggage into the trunk of the cab, he said, You are the most—
Compatible person I have ever met, I finished.
We had been finishing each other’s sentences all week.
I saw, of course, this tweet. I slid, platonically, into his DMs. I don’t know why I had reached out to Hudson in the first place.
Sorry about the band, Hudson, I wrote, and removed the heart emoji before sending. The response came quickly.
Any chance you’re in L.A.? I could use your face.
But I know you’re always the one following me. In brackets he let me know that my face is better than the smiley emoji he uses to sign off. I left him with three dots, as if I’d be writing him during my whole flight.
It was late—my flight was delayed—and my loneliness was so astringent it was drying out my skin.
Waiting for the flight to take off for Mexico, I smelled Santal 33 on the man next to me. I missed how Hudson touched me. Lots of men touched me, styled me, posed me, cinched me, adjusted my hair and jaw as necessary, but Hudson had a range of fabric in his fingers. Most men were cotton.
I looked at my phone.
I imagined him staring at his phone.
I switched my phone to airplane mode and stowed it so I wouldn’t be tempted to reread all our messages.
About three hours into the flight, the Santal 33 smell was so bad that it drove me to join the mile-high club. Not with the dude next to me, no. The half-mile-high club, then, alone, in the bathroom at the back of the aircraft, when the flight attendants turned off all the lights.
You may use your cellular devices at this time.
Odile’s story isn’t finished yet. She clearly isn’t over Hudson, but will he fight harder than Denis? See how it all pans out in Chapter Four and follow @the.real.odile on Instagram for real-time updates.