Have You Ever Hit Anyone As An Adult?
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You'd think we had answered a cattle call for the most beautiful waif in New York. I looked around me. There it was. Everywhere. Pale poreless skin, gaunt, angular bodies, our barely visible eyebrows arched in the center giving us a slightly baffled look. Eyes were lined, top and bottom, in thick smoky taupes, and we all had vague, continental accents which made us sound confused yet competent. I, myself, was the most beautiful. Even on the days I left my eyes undefined, and threw on clothes which didn't show off the straight graceful lines of my lithe body, even on those days, I was perfect.
Not only was I the most beautiful, but I was also the smartest. Straight A's, started reading when I was two, emotional intelligence off the charts. I was a beautiful creature, a Canadian goose that migrates at night using a built-in star map. The stars are my compass. Nobody knows how I'm able to read the heavens, but I do.
Finally, I heard the receptionist call out, "Candy Turner?" I nodded. That was me. I grabbed my ponyskin pocketbook and double-air kissed whoever was sitting next to me. I was dressed in suede the color of salmon. I smiled a beautiful, frozen smile and followed the receptionist through a maze of offices, berating myself for any signs of nervousness. It was just a job as a fashion editor's assistant. It meant free Chanel perfume, invitations to parties, and for me, in particular, it meant yet another fabulous reason for being.
She left me in a large airy conference room with a table that suggested Old World grandeur. Zoe Taylor herself came in balancing a stack of resumes and a can of diet iced tea. She sat down and checked her watch. "Impressive," she said perkily, after she introduced herself. "Harvard, Yale, Brown, Duke." Her eyebrow arch had been designed to give her a slight deer-caught-in-a-headlights look. I preferred my slightly baffled look. "Why so many, Candy?"
"We're the restless type, I guess." The royal we happened to be seriously in at the moment. I crossed my legs so my suede made a slight whisper.
"Gotcha," Zoe said. She was youngish, and that month her hair was an especially buttery shade of blonde. Everyone knows Zoe. She's known in the biz primarily for naming magazines after herself, for her genius in self-promotion, and her sexual obsession with punk musicians. The nod to grunge helps her demographics.
"Now," she said, smiling sweetly. "Tell me a bit more about why you want to be a fashion editor's assistant, Candy."
"Well, " I said, "evaluating accessories relative to fashion moods, as it were, is possibly the only professional goal I've ever harbored."
"I see," Zoe said. "Well your name is fabulous. Is it real?"
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I leaned forward on my chair. "Everything about me is thought out, in the sense that there are no errors. Not by omission, not by commission." I looked around and sighed deeply.
She smiled at me all sunshine and honey. I had never met anyone so instantly familiar. "I feel like we're so connected!" Zoe said. She knew how to lay it on thick, heavy on the exclamation points. I remember seeing her on Letterman once. When he tagged an innocent little Eurotrash 'yes?' on the end of her intro, she was livid. Her faux feelings were astonishing to watch, whirling across her face, each one so capricious it stunned me.
"My scent, Zoe, debuts in May," she was telling me.
"I know," I said. "I'm aware."
"Good." She turned her attention to the hot pink form I'd filled out. "I see you've left the last question unanswered, Candy."
"I forgot what it was," I lied. I'd found the question highly tangential.
"Well, it's really nothing, " she said, in a tone suggesting we might all band together some day to annihilate every writer responsible for such questions. "It's just, 'Have you ever hit anyone as an adult?'"
Now I remembered why I'd left it blank. I wasn't exactly proud of my record on this delicate subject. "Have you?" I said.
"Have I?" she repeated, imperious. Her eyes narrowed into mean little slits. "I hardly think we're here to interview me today, Candy!" Her laugh was self-deprecating, as if, who knew, tomorrow we very well might be.
"Well," I said, staring her straight in the eye. "I guess, approximately, fourteen times. Give or take a few."
"Fourteen?" she sputtered. "You've hit fourteen people as an adult?"
"That's right," I said. Reading her eyes was impossible. It was either boredom or heat pouring out.
"Give me the genesis of a typical episode," she said. She seemed extremely troubled.
"Well," I thought about it. "Hard to say." I was wondering what the hell the point of this little exercise was. The pink forms had been sitting in piles in the lobby. The model across from me made hers into an origami flower. I sat back in my chair and recrossed my legs. "Every day is war. In a way, I guess, I'm filled with rage."
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On the way home from my interview, walking across 38th Street, I wondered whether I would get the job. I was already picking out a password for my office voice mail (P-A-R-I-S) and thinking up a provocative message: (I heard you know what to do. Do it.) I wanted a message that would let people know I was the most beautiful.
I was waiting for a light to change, trying to open my red-lacquered parasol that I'd gotten on the street in Chinatown for a buck. A girl in all white, dressed like a sugarplum fairy, tried to steal my wallet. She just reached into my bag and helped herself with an odd, twisted grin on her face.
When I turned to stop her I saw she was even more beautiful than me. I couldn't believe it.
We were sizing up the slope of our perfect little noses when all of a sudden she hit me across the face, then she punched me in the stomach. Then she smiled, and, like nothing at all had happened, she set off on the rest of her day, and vanished down Madison Avenue.
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