He was shooting me from across the street, me in my priest’s collar, my black gown. St. Sebastian’s was a flood of electric light. I could see the outer fringes of my hair all lit up, like an aura between the curls.
He’d already used the Steadicam. Now the street was snow in patches and a series of black sedans rolling past.
The movie was for a millionaire, who wanted priests and things with black wings projected on a wall behind his altar and his “fornication chair.” That’s what he told Gregory, a local director of music videos, a soft porn adaptation of Rent, PSAs for the Humane Society, and who, in fact, himself adopted and rehabilitated abused greyhounds. We’d gone to college together.
It’s crazy trying to make something of your days. I was in an Alice Cooper tribute band in the 1980s and early ’90s, but I kept seeing pictures of Cooper swinging golf clubs instead of scowling under blood-red skies filled with bats, and it just didn’t feel the same anymore. I felt like I was living a lie. . . .
I was now instructed to stand at the door of the church, to pretend I was locking up for the night.
“Wouldn’t I just walk through a hallway and into my residence?”
“You’re an adulterous priest. You’ve got a hot date with a female parishioner named Veronica.”
“I can do that.” I liked playing it straight, plus I’d be throwing in a bit of a sexy snarl for the millionaire. I’ve got large teeth in my mouth, including incisors. I played a vampire in another music video, from my Welcome to My Nightmare days.
I was further instructed to walk—slowly—down the wide (golden in the floodlights) staircase.
“Gladly,” I said, because walking’s my specialty.
I was wearing black shoes.
I didn’t need much more than the clothes. I put in some eye drops so one eye was dilated. A touch of mascara. I watched the black cars on the road.
Pigeons kept rising over the roofs of nearby houses and circling the church’s bell tower. I liked that I was high up against enormous wood doors, while in the house next door I could see a man watching TV and eating popcorn out of a blue or green bowl. His wife or girlfriend was curled up beside him. It made me feel a little sad. But it also felt good to be towering above them.
Gregory’s assistant moved downwind from us. He’d be standing there. Then he’d disappear or I’d only see half of him for a couple of seconds. He looked like the Black Dahlia woman, cut in half the way she was, but then Victor’d suddenly be walking toward us, or only half of him would be.
In the woods, just beyond the surrounding homes, a bonfire raged, staining the night’s low-flying clouds a peculiar shade of orange.
It was all in how you lived your life. I wasn’t much of a drinker myself, and I ate a lot of yogurt and blueberries and hardboiled eggs. But I could stand along an avenue with the skies aflame and talk to Jesus Christ, and the blackbirds would burst out of the trees.
The millionaire, it was said, threw big parties that included big orgies. People would come to town from Hawaii and Austria. Nude women wearing headgear fashioned to look like hawks carried trays of hors d’oeuvres and glasses of champagne.
“He thinks the help seem more nude that way, that it enhances their role as aphrodisiacs,” Gregory said.
All of us chuckled at that, except for Alphonso, whose wife had recently left him for some guy who frequented sex clubs in Chicago.
I’ve been there. I only snorted amyl nitrate twice, though—and it was great; smoke slithered over black floorboards and my partners felt dry and smooth, like anacondas.
Nowadays, I run on an elliptical most evenings. My last boyfriend left me when, for several weeks, he couldn’t stop staring at the ceiling and asking me why I was so damn annoying.
“I’m just lying here, Michael.”
“That’s not true, Stephen. For one thing you’re fucking breathing.”
I do love my cat, a svelte tabby runt. She is ten years old and has never weighed an ounce over five pounds.
When Gregory yelled, “Action,” I pretended to wrestle with a skeleton key. I knew he and the boys were rolling their eyes. What a drama queen.
I also knew they felt a chill run down their spines when I turned and floated about an inch off the concrete, my face white as the moon.
“Fuck,” I heard Victor say.
Then came the part in the scene where I begin to walk.