Authors: Jill Kargman
The Rock Star in Seat 3A
I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.
Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.
’ve never done heroin, but in that moment of running to see him again, I felt like a junkie sprinting to meet her dealer, waiting to cook up the smack in the spoon, tie the tourniquet on my arm, fill the needle slowly, close my eyes softly, and surrender my soul to utter bliss once more. I’ve never craved anything in my life as much as him. Not schlong per se, but heart; his arms around me, my head on his chest again, safe. I was fiending, pacing, agasp. I needed him in the marrow of my bones. And I prayed I could get my fix once more. I had the perfect life and it turned course so drastically, as if overnight. I ached inside. But I guess they call it growing pains for a reason.
ucky for me, offices don’t come cooler. Badass Games had hatched in a humongous industrial former storage building near the water in Dumbo, Brooklyn, when its only product was the blockbuster Pimps N’ Ho’s, Volume I. A video game junkie since childhood, I was teased mercilessly by my sister Kira for years until she realized I possessed a skill set that made the boys want to hang with us. We always had the latest state-of-the-art consoles, and our house was the go-to hangout place after school for all our friends, who enjoyed procrastinating, scarfing down my famous nachos—a daily trashtastic concoction of chips, cheese, and mushrooms—and the sweet-defeat of being trampled by me in game after game of Nintendo.
HAZEL, YOU ARE THE WINNER!
Kira thought it was a tad odd, this addiction of mine, and would often be upstairs with her blond ponytail friends talking about the upcoming dance or a shopping trip to the mall, while I was with joystick and wide eyes down in the rec room, discovering secret magic coins, slaying dragons, and ascending level after level. When my parents balked, I used every young gamer’s weary echoed refrain “it’s really good for hand-eye coordination!”
When I rocked Super Mario Bros. and saved the princess all by my lonesome, I was, in a way, signifying to myself that I didn’t need a guy to come rescue me from an ivy-wrapped stone tower. I’d fucking save my own ass, thank you very much. My video games accompanied me to college, then to my shared rental with Kira on the Lower East Side after school, and soon after my move, I gave an emotional middle finger to all the people who thought my dorkissssima obsession was not only not feminine but also actively weird; I landed a killer job working for Noah Tannenbaum, a pioneer in the industry. I turned my basement fixation into a career.
“You’re a cutie pie,” Noah had said, looking me over in his renowned lothario’s gaze. I was wearing my uniform of black leggings and a black T-shirt, probably a vintage concert collectible from The Void, I can’t recall.
“Uh, thanks,” I replied sheepishly, feeling his eyes float down from my bobbed dyed-black hair down past my wrists full of chunky bracelets south to my leather ankle boots.
“You’re a real gamer?” he asked.
Without even answering, I walked to the mega setup across from the massive couch in his office and fired up Buck Hunter. I picked up the simulation .22 shotgun worthy of the woods of Alabama. Every Bambi I spied was toast within minutes, and I’d beaten his high score.
“Holy shit!” he exclaimed. We talked shop for an hour over a catered lunch and I was hired by the end of the day to help him roll out. Through my twenties my responsibilities grew and by twenty-nine I was the global head of marketing and PR. Work was my life, pretty much. Guys came and went, but Badass was my anchor.
I had always been fiercely independent. While I had some very intense passionate long-term romances—a gorgeous swimmer in college, a sexy artist in Williamsburg—it wasn’t until I met Wylie that I had that cozy feeling. We fit. Physically, mentally, everything. I don’t mean that like penis-and-vagina-style, I mean our bodies somehow molded together like I was designed to nestle into his exact form. I was home.
I was at a snoozeville boringass Christmas party of Kira’s best friend, Meg. Her husband was some banker guy, and I felt so out of place in their deluxe duplex on Park Avenue. After small talk with several decked-out guests that basically just consisted of me nodding, I darted off to the kitchen to steal hors d’oeuvres hot out of the oven and hang with the hot gay cater waiters, who were always more interesting than the crowds they served. One was an actor, another a songwriter. I was leaning on the marble island in the middle of the huge cooking area, when I noticed the gorgeous chef quietly adding chives to the top of his artfully made mini truffle quesadillas.
“You don’t mind if I hide back here eating all your delicious food, do you?” I asked.
“No, no, not at all,” he replied. “Here, try these—”
He leaned in and offered me the perfectly adorned round mushroom explosion.
It was love at first bite.
Normally peeps say that about vampires, but for me, it was my darling chef.
“Oh my god, this is fucking ambrosia!” I squealed, mouth still full.
I never was formally diagnosed, but I always thought I might have Tourette’s. I have zero edit button, and while I don’t spontaneously blurt out “cocksucking motherfucker” in supermarkets or anything like that, I definitely let my emotions hold the reins of my mouth, rather than my brain.
“Sorry.” I shrugged sheepishly. “That was just really yummy.” I blushed.
“Don’t apologize.” Wylie leaned in, smiling, his big brown eyes smiling. “I love a girl who likes to eat.”
“Oh believe me, I do,” I said, stealing another before the slick black-turtleneck-clad waiter whisked out the platter. “I’m a grade-A snarfer. I’m like a bulimic but without the barfing part.”
“Really? You don’t look like it. You’d think a chowhound would look like Violet Beauregarde. After the blueberry transformation. You don’t seem like you’re getting rolled away on a dolly anytime soon.”
“Well, my sister Kira says I have a fast metabolism. But supposedly that makes you age faster. Who knows. You can’t win ’em all.”
“Here, try this—” He spatula’d a phyllo-dough goat cheese morsel of heaven. “Careful, it’s hot,” he warned, smiling.
I practically orgasmed on the Mexican tile. “HOLYFUCKINGSHIT,” I said with a full mouth. “I bet you do this with all the ladies,” I accused, with a raised brow.
“Nope,” he said, almost wistfully. “I seem to be married to my kitchen.”
He was beautiful. He was perfect. Gorgeous, kind, a world-class chef, and clearly not an assholic womanizer?
What was this guy, a fucking unicorn?
By the end of the night I had four thousand calories and Wylie’s phone number.
The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.
e moved in together nine months later.
It was good I had a live-in boyfriend because if I had been single at my office, listening to the Neanderthal rantings of the otherwise all-male staff of thirty at work, I’d be a man-hating basket case.
“So I banged this chick last night, fuckin’ insane, man,” John, the head of development, bragged. “Fucking huge fake tits, blond hair to her ass crack, man. She was out of her mind, but holy shit was it hot.”
“So are you gonna hit that this weekend?” my (married) boss Noah asked, living vicariously.
“Nah. The head was killer but not worth the headache, if you know what I mean. I can smell crazy the way dogs can smell fear, and this betty was fuckin’ certifiable.”
“It’s too bad you can’t use their mouths and then duct tape them up afterward,” chimed in Sergei, the head programmer.
“Charming,” I interjected.
Great, just great. Like Courtney Love once crooned, “When they get what they want, they never want it again . . .”
Pretending I was mute, I banged away on my oversize, fabulous, state-of-the-art Mac and wore earphones much of the day as I prepped all our marketing materials. We were launching our newest edition of our biggest-selling game, Pimps N’ Ho’s, Volume V, and Noah was on a press-craving rampage with enormous launch parties in New York and Los Angeles. New York was cake, it was my hometown, and having been a bit of a partier in my early twenties (read: Fiona Apple times ten), now at the dusk of that decade, I was honestly over it. But I did happen to know virtually every cool space in the city and had already booked a huge studio on Twenty-sixth Street on the Hudson.
California would prove more of a challenge. Starting with one small cringe-inducing fact: I couldn’t drive. Noah wanted to put a bullet in my head because every time I had to fly out there for work he had to hire me a driver. Which literally cost like five dollars to him, since he sold half of the company to the Japanese two years ago. I had been employee lucky number seven, so I had made a bunch of dough on my stock options, enough to buy our small apartment and have some left over. I was very pleased by his generosity and where I was at the company, but annoyed he still gave me shit about my lack o’ skills at the wheel. I was confused by how indignant he was, teasing me mercilessly, incessantly. I mean . . . didn’t guys like to be in control while the chicks did Tawny Kitaen–style straddles on the hoods of their hot Jags? I guess guys like a woman with her hand on the big stick shift, though. Either way I knew at some point I’d have to learn but kept staving off the inevitable
–emblazoned Ford Focus.
Noah called everyone into the all-glass conference room in the middle of the ground floor. I walked down the huge metal hanging staircase to The Pod as we all called it, where we found a spread of organic sandwiches Noah had delivered fresh every day. Despite his mildly jerktastic ways, I knew I was lucky. Jobs don’t come much cooler than mine. That said, I was steeped in hellacious embryonic stages for all our press blitz and upcoming events. I’d already gotten massive promised coverage in tons of magazines, plus Noah would do a whole round of television interviews. But I was stressed beyond measure by the piling notebook pages on my skull n’ bones–covered Lucite clipboard and thought I’d have a nervous breakdown before I reached my thirtieth birthday dinner that weekend.
“Hazel. What’s up with L.A.?” Noah asked.
“I’m going next week for a few nights. I hired a local events gal who’s supposedly awesome to help me with the Rolodex and secure the details, catering, invites etc., though I found a very cool printing press in Los Feliz.”
“Okay. And celebrities. I want bold facers. I want cool edgy ones, not this B-list shit. If Stephen fucking Dorff comes to one more of our fucking parties I swear to fucking Jesus H. Tittyfucking Christ on roller skates that I will machine-gun his ass the fuck out of there,” steamed Noah. “Ditto for those reality bitches. I don’t want one of those sorry skanks. No butter-face housewives of Buttfuck, U.S.A. Not a one. Fuck reality. This game is about fantasy, escapism, so I don’t want trampy losers to pop the bubble. I want tits on sticks, I want jocks, rockers, and actors who can fucking act. No prime-time TV people. Unless they’re on HBO or Showtime.”
“Got it,” I responded with a crisp head nod. No sleazeballs, check. Great, that ruled out much of Los Angeles. There goes half my guest list.
“Moving on. Christopher—”
Noah sped along around the King Arthur–esque round table we shared as I took notes and looked over some of the press kit materials my group had brought in from the printers. I ran a hand through my hair and exhaled. The month ahead would be a fiery plunge into Hades. Fuck. If only I could be
–beamed to the other side, a few months hence. But life didn’t work that way, alas, you had to wade through the muddy parts, like it or not. The only way out is through. Plus, I should try and enjoy the next few days before my youth falls off a cliff. In seventy-two hours, after all, I’d be—gulp!—in my thirties.